Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Richard III, pt.I

Almost precisely a year after the body of Richard III was found to be exactly that in a car park half an hour from where I live, in a spot passed possibly hundreds of times in mine and Leigh’s lifetimes, I got a call from the people I’d worked with on the Robert Burns Museum. They asked whether, should they be awarded the job, I’d like to create some illustrations for the planned Richard III Visitor Centre, to be built right over the spot where he was found.

Nothing was certain, but if they got the job, would I be interested? I couldn’t get the words ‘yes your majesty' out of my mouth fast enough. With the Battle of Bosworth colouring our school trips and local history and growing up within biking distance, it seemed I was royally obliged to say yes.

Within a couple of months the job was indeed awarded, and the briefs were here. As is typical of this kind of work, they changed and shifted and some were deleted, briefs re-written and until three major pieces were finalised.

Now, friends and colleagues will be aware that although my Richard III project started in 2013, it still hasn’t finished, with two of my pieces still to be installed. The complexities of local authorities, funding, architects, planners and designers are myriad and mysterious, but suffice to say this was an involved project with many hands on deck. I’ve resisted announcing the project till it’s finished, but since it’s clearly an evolving project, I shall bring you news of the pieces one by one!

The first of the three to be installed are what became known as the Death Quotes. One dark corner of this very atmospheric and incredibly carefully-lit building (the ground floor being about Richard’s life and death, the upper floor exploring the science of his discovery) deals exclusively with the horrific manner of his death, the violent struggle and injuries which caused him to die there on the battlefield.

These were explored visually via three contemporary quotes about his death, each rendered in a historically-inspired lettering style which did not, thankfully, have to adhere to any particular font or level of accuracy - I was free to interpret and after a little wrangling back and forth, to be as spiky and writhing as I wanted it to be. The quotes would extend out from a central point suggesting the fatal blow to the back of the head.

Here’s a close up of a section, ink-soaked and written in inch-high or more letters on A2 cartridge:

And here is a section of quote being created:


Once finalised - which was a long process - they were put in situ with the cracks of the 'glass panels' and the shards of splintered glass all, unusually for me, created in Illustrator to go alongside the very organic hand-lettering:

Finally the built structure complete with its Tudor weapons was built around the ‘glass’ panels, thus:

No matter how many pictures we took none of them seemed to capture the essence of this structure, so I think you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself.

So, there are two (actually three) more large installations to happen, one of which is possibly the most significant one in the whole centre. I don’t have an update on when, since the centre has to close each time any work is done (as it has recently, but Richard’s reburial approaches, so I’m anticipating that they’ll want to get it done before then. I’m extremely pleased with the two pieces to come, and cannot wait to show them, but they unfortunately have to wait until the centre has them in situ.

The Grave Site, above the ex-car park where Philippa Langley first sensed that King Richard was under the letter 'R'; an inverted copper pyramid awaiting its engraving of all of the British monarchs:

And this enormous etched series of glass panels covered on roses, in the Centre's reception area - metres high and long:

Keep your blog-reading eyes on, then.

Richard III Visitor Centre

4A St. Martins, Leicester, LE1 5DB



0300 300 0900

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