Social Engagement & Activism > Meditations: A Collaborative Project

Dolosse by Garth Claassen
Dolosse by Garth Claassen
Charcoal Meditation Beads, paper

From Garth Claassen:
"When I began dragging and pushing the Meditation Beads across the paper, I noticed how they bunched and spread, creating eddies of delicate black tracings that were a counterpoint to the assertive and clumsy marks I made as I struggled to control this unorthodox drawing implement. When I took breaks, I just left the beads lying on the page or hanging from the clip holding my paper to the drawing board. Their crisply linked, dense black forms stood out against the disordered and vacillating marks on the page, imposing an order on the drawing. I was reminded of a series I did ten years ago, that depicted blocky interlocking forms called dolosse. Dolosse are huge twenty-ton cast-concrete structures, shaped like a capital H with one leg twisted through 90 degrees, that are designed to reinforce harbor walls or reduce shoreline erosion. They were invented in the mid-1960s by a South African engineer, Eric Merrifield, who supposedly came up with the idea when he observed children playing a game of jacks using animal knucklebones. The bones were called dolosse because they resembled crude looking oxen; the Afrikaans words, os and osse, mean ox and oxen; dol may be a contraction of dollen, an Old Dutch word meaning “to play.” Merrifield noticed how the bones could loosely interlock and this led to his very successful dolos design, developed in response to storms that had devastated the Indian Ocean port of East London. Strung out like huge concreted beads along the shoreline, dolosse form a resilient buffer against the waves; the porous nature of the structure dissipates the force of the tide more effectively than rigid walls. Merrifield’s dolosse have saved lives, prevented destruction and are used throughout the world.

I decided to develop the connection I had sensed between the Meditation Bead drawings and the iconography of my earlier series. At this point, I felt that the Beads had served their purpose, and that I would use conventional drawing tools to relate their forms and those of the dolosse to one another, not just formally, but also through their respective psychological and physical protective functions. "

Drawing and Photograph by Garth Claassen

April VanDeGrift:…