The Notes Ring-Toned Stones Ring (STE 10/10)

ring tone stones 2Ring-toned stones ring stone notes composed in repose.

Stone notes echo in the inner ear at the speed of silence.

Composite composition amplified on tectonic frequencies.


Igneous Ligneous (STE 10/9)

stump stone stack matchStumps fulfill different functions in the Petriverse—they serve as passive vehicles for displaying groups of rocks, as bases for displaying single stones, or they become part of more integrated work.  In the composition seen here, the contours, texture and grain of the stump and stone on it merge together, as if the brown mottling on the rock completes the roughly circular shape of the cut face of the stump.  That rock’s rectangular form makes it appear to be a kind of blander rock base for the striking pair of uppermost stones, which form a kind of composition on their own: the outlines match neatly, as if the top were a peaked head with an eye on a body; they appear as a single rock formation where different materials have weathered into a deeply textured and complexly patterned whole.


Pierre Jardin named this work the “Igneous Ligneous Stump Stack”—a geological word followed by a woody word, modifying the stump stack.  The rhyming terms echo the close fit of stump and stone.  The prehistoric creature vibe of the piece evokes a species connotation, as if “Igneous Ligneous” were some sort of troglodyte tribe that walked the earth before homo sapiens, or haunts us as memories bubbling up from deep time.

Sandstone Stack Aglow (STE 10/8)

Mr SandstoneMr. Sandstone stands still in his corner perch on the front porch in the Petriverse of Pierre Jardin. His glow in the rays of the setting sun is enhanced, sadly, by light filtered through smoke from nearby wildfires.

Even though these two stones were found ten feet apart from each other amid the rubble of a shingle beach, they seemed to present themselves as a tandem.  The form and proportions, flat bottom and tilting topside, makes the lower stone a natural base for the other one, whose mottled texture and markings draw the eye, as if it is the rock on display.  The whitish flecks on the stone seem like paint; on seeing it, viewers often ask whether it has been altered.  The appearance of intentionally made marks enhances the pareidolia effect of the stone, the likelihood of people projecting familiar patterns or images onto it.  Hence, the “Mr. SandStone” personification offered by Pierre Garden.

Simultaneously though, the two rocks merge together into a single outline, comprising a modulated variation of color and mineral composition.  They present distinctly different textures and tones, colorings and moods, yet come together in an oddly organic fashion.  This composition embodies the way in which the line between natural and humanly manipulated, stone and art, beach and garden, can break down or become fluid….


Taihu Loomings (STE 10/7)

This morning, Pierre Jardin took his slow time exercise in Liu Fang Yuan, The Garden of Flowing Fragrance, at the Huntington Library and Gardens.  The tranquility of the garden in morning light, before other visitors arrive, creates a feeling of stillness that lulls time into an empty state of suspension—a void in direct tension with the density of detail, the sensual saturation, the energetic fullness of the place.

Taihu bridge HuntingtonThis scene, this slender slice carved out of the space of the garden, is a study in contrasts.  The rock is bathed in light and shadow, its whole foraminate form forms a play of voids and volume, its holey-ness accentuated by the blue sky and bright bridge the recesses reveal. This Taihu limestone looks light, as if floating on the water, or drifting like a cloud; yet its mass provides a solid foreground, against the ethereal ephemerality of shimmering reflections.

Taihu rocks have been placed in emperors’ and scholar-officials’ gardens since at least the 3rd century BCE, and smaller stones sometimes having similar shapes, gōngshí or scholar rocks, have been mounted by literati on stands for contemplation.  In the Daoist tradition, taihu rocks are valued for being concentrated configurations of qi, the breathing energy of the cosmos. The taihu stone, composed of limestone deposits formed in an ancient sea and then sculpted into distinctive shapes by water, suggests balanced oppositions between yang and yin, masculine strength and feminine moisture, material and mental stolidity versus yielding and following the path of least resistance, stillness and motion.  When situated in gardens, taihu rocks, individually situated or piled into rockeries, were designed to evoke mountains.

Here, the rock rises up as if emerging out of the lake, embodying the landscape of rocks and water, for Daoists, the bones and blood/breath of the earth, respectively.  Green water is prized for being “cloudy like jade,” and the semi-circular bridge completes itself in reflection, the round shape evoking the moon and perfection. The lotus flower is an emblem of one of the Daoist immortals (Ho Hsien-ku); its qualities make it a model of character: it rests modestly on the surface of the water; its pure white flowers emerge from mud; its subtle perfume spreads through the air; its purity it is to be appreciated at a respectful distance.

These are the “Taihu loomings” that passed through Pierre Jardin’s drifting mind–“loomings” meant as an echo of Melville’s title for chapter one of Moby-Dick, where the word evokes loomings in the mist, loomings of reflections in water, portentous hints of the white whale to come, loomings as weavings of words and ideas….  The Taihu stone looms large in the lake, and reverberates in Jardin’s watery brain.

Ring Toned Stones (STE 10/6)

The concentric patterns on these rocks attract the eye and imbues them with a specific quality–the surface ripples and round shapes resonate with geophysical and hydrodynamic energies, expressing the forces that formed them.

Ring toned stones

Just as a phone can have a distinct ring tone, these stones possess distinct ring tones. As Lafcadio Hearn observed, “you can feel, and keenly feel, that stones have character, that stones have tones and values.” Hearn was writing about Japanese gardens, but his words apply to rocks everywhere.  These Palos Verdes shore stones bring the ebb and flow of tides washing over them into the garden, an oceanic rhythm and tonality mixed into geologic metamorphic foliation and striation.


A Garden of Dancing Sculptures (STE 10/5)

The Petriverse continually changes; since it cannot expand beyond its cozy confines, Pierre Jardin’s creative process essentially comes down to restless revision.  The “Smurf-Capped Stone” has topped three stacks in a week, the latest iteration (bottom photo) being a fruit of this morning’s contemplative composition of place exercise.

This section of the garden has become a place of “dancing sculptures,” stacks that change composition in time.  This configuration of the same three stones uses a bowled hollow in the bottom rock as a base, on which the middle rhombus-shaped stone stands upright, bringing out the complex variation in its surface textures and patterns, and giving it the dynamism and graceful balance of a dancing figure.  The Smurf-Cap Stone has been rotated a third way, appearing the most symmetrical in its triangular outline, lending an unexpected geometric quality to the stack, which itself attracts the eye in its seemingly unlikely upright equilibrium.


Smurf-Capped Peak (STE 10/4)


The stone on top (also featured in the 10/1 STE post) has distinct features: triangular or mountain form; pocked, tortured texture; hard, dense composition; striking curvilinear striations.  It was further endeared to Pierre Jardin when his niece Sirina said it looks like a Smurf hat.  Playing off the Chinese penchant to name striking stones as mountain summits (“Cloud-Capped Peak”), Jardin dubbed this rock “Smurf-Capped Peak.”

Intrigued by the unusual features of the rock–especially density, striations, and hollows–and how it stands out from some surrounding stones–Pierre researched the geologic history of the Palos Verdes peninsula and region.  It is possible that the rock formed 20-30 miles deep in the earth, on the subducted Farallon Plate, and surfaced when the Western Transverse Ranges Block was dragged on the Pacific Plate northwest, and pivoted 90 degrees, allowing rock from deep in the subduction zone underneath to come up for air.  The Smurf-Capped Peak might be from a “metamorphic core complex”–‘metamorphic’ meaning changed  by heat and pressure deep underground, and ‘core’ meaning a nucleus of old, deep rock that rises as the younger rock slides away. (For the full story, read the “Disassembling Southern California” chapter in Keith Heyer Meldahl‘s excellent Surf, Sand, and Stone.)

A tip of the Smurf cap to this stone, and its obscure, illustrious history!