WINNER - 30-Year Anniversary Stonemasons Apprentice Award

The judges said: “Daniel Trento Santoso has concluded a rock-faced broken finish, which is a great reflection of the broken column, a type of carved symbolism often found in the cemetery setting.”

Bare Gothic, 2023

Sydney Yellow Block Sandstone



My design is based on a group of headstones in the Presbyterian section of Rookwoods State Heritage area, near the Frazer Mausoleum. It incorporates arguably the most recognisable Gothic architectural detail; the pointed equilateral arch. I am currently an apprentice monumental stonemason working at Rookwood Cemetery, specialising in the conservation and repair of historic monuments. I also teach Social Anthropology at Macquarie University and am completing my doctoral studies in the School of Social Sciences. My doctoral research focuses on skilled practice as a perceptual and ethical transformation of the self, whereby my apprenticeship at the cemetery serves as a field site for gathering insights about how these perceptual modifications occur.

About the Artist

Daniel Tranter-Santoso lives on Dharawal Land in south western Sydney, NSW.




I was encouraged to enter the carving competition by my mentors at the cemetery, and as an apprentice, I hadn't yet had the opportunity to carve at all outside of TAFE, let alone something of my own design. I was excited by the prospect, but daunted by the gothic brief. What is the gothic aesthetic? I wondered.

After different conversations with other stonemasons, I thought the gothic pointed arch would be suitable for the brief, but still within my range of capability. But how would I incorporate the arch into a small scale carving? Thinking on this, and driving around the cemetery in some of the older sections, which still bear some remnants of gothic influence, I noticed a particular style of monumental ornament, the carved niche.

Something about it appealed to me, the way it trapped space and depth in its face, the idea of stone as an open container, not for human remains, but for an icon. They reminded me both of the Japanese toro stone lanterns which adorn my favourite cemetery in Japan, Okunoin Cemetery in Mt. Koya, but also of the sacred grottos in the mountains of Magdalena in Laguna Province, 4 hours drive from Manila City.

These grottos are large niches cut into the faces of stone beside rivers and waterfalls with icons of the Virgin Mary placed inside. I had the pleasure of traveling to both these regions in 2018, and when I saw their resemblance in the carved niches of Rookwood, I decided I could realise the Gothic arch while incorporating the inspiration from my travels.