National Stone Centre

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Published 13/07/2022

Ancient Auroch Stars in EarthBound Exhibition at National Stone Centre



A new exhibition featuring a lifesize wild ox made entirely of natural materials over a metal armature opens at the National Stone Centre in Derbyshire on 17 July and runs until 11 September 2022.

‘EarthBound - The Story of Connected Life through Rock, Earth and Community’ is a collaborative project between sculptor Sally Matthews and two Derbyshire-based photographers, Alex Hyde and Kate Bellis. The exhibition is an exploration of how soil health and an area's underlying geology influences our daily lives and the biodiversity around us.

At the centre of the exhibition is Sally Matthews’ huge seven feet tall, 11.5 feet long Auroch, an extinct wild ox from which current day cattle are thought to have descended. The show also features an anatomically accurate scale sculpture of a Cave Hyena in the same form as the Auroch, plus a collection of Sally’s wildlife drawings in ash, earth and charcoal. 


Kate Bellis is the show curator. She explains: “The aim of EarthBound is to make us pause for breath a little, and think that our future survival may well depend on us having a deeper understanding and respect for the incredible life, micro-organisms and fungal networks that hold our planet in balance. The smallest things can have the biggest impact for our survival as a species, we have learned this the hard way over the last few years.

“EarthBound will hopefully make us think a little more about the hidden story written in our rocks and the earth under our feet, the life there now and in the layered history of rock and earth, above and below, how we are all connected to this continuing story.”

Hosted at the National Stone Centre (NSC), the exhibition is located in a new outdoor exhibition space created by the Institute of Quarrying (IQ) following its merger with the NSC in 2021. James Thorne is Chief Executive Officer of the IQ. He says: “EarthBound resonates clearly with everything that the Institute of Quarrying stands for. And where better to host this exhibition than in the heart of six former limestone quarries. It’s an inspiring backdrop suited to the profound subjects explored by EarthBound.”


Sculptor Sally Matthews adds: “Creating the Auroch for EarthBound involved working out its presence from skeletons, writings and images, including cave drawings. The last huge, wild, beautiful Auroch cow died in Poland in 1627. Hunting and loss of habitat caused their extinction but their shadow remains in their ancestors, domestic cattle, domesticated around 10,500 years ago. That’s the essence of EarthBound.”

Robert Shields is Chairman of Longcliffe Group Limited, the Derbyshire-based quarrying business that has supported the EarthBound project. He says: “Much more than people often realise, the rock that lies beneath us, and its chemical make-up, is integral to our daily lives. It dictates the nature of the buildings that we build above it, the soil that rests on its surface and the biodiversity that lives and grows both through and because of its mineral structure.

“Longcliffe Group is proud to help support EarthBound’s exploration of these hidden layers beneath our feet, as well as their basic mission to promote a greater respect for this powerful life-force that forms the foundation for us all.”

Photographer Alex Hyde adds: “The Earthbound team is truly grateful for the amazing support for the project from our partners at Longcliffe Quarries Ltd, through EarthBound's initial conception and evolution and on to its fruition in 2022.”

As part of the EarthBound project, Derbyshire schools and community groups were given a rare opportunity to see the natural world in minute detail in workshops at the NSC. A scanning electron microscope was made available courtesy of a loan from the Hitachi High-Tech America STEM Educational Outreach Programme, with support from the Royal Microscopical Society, Oxford Instruments, The Institute for Research in Schools, Hitachi High-Tech Europe, and the Natural History Museum. `

An EarthBound Book will be published in full colour, 130 pages, paperback, featuring work from the EarthBound artists Kate Bellis, Sally Matthews and Alex Hyde and written scientific pieces by some of the country’s leading entomologists.

The exhibition is open 10am - 4pm everyday, to find out more about EarthBound visit