Representing a lost Georgian artefact.
Next week, my ‘Pope’s Urn’ sculpture will be officially unveiled as the centrepiece of Champion’s Wharf, a new public park in Twickenham. ‘Pope’s Urn’ is a contemporary representation of a Georgian urn and is part of an ensemble, created in partnership with text-based art consultants, Poet in the City, to celebrate the work of Alexander Pope, Twickenham’s famous former resident. The original ‘Pope’s Urn’ was installed by Pope in the gardens of Hagley Hall in Worcestershire and was inscribed with a tribute to Pope after his death in 1744. The original is now lost, however it was recorded in the painting by David Parkes.
The challenge in representing the lost urn was not to overstate the certainty of its form. The original details of decorative carving are ambiguous and mere pastiche would be uninteresting. The general profile is clearly evident and allowed an honest reductive form to be modelled with Rhino 3D CAD software. The next step was to slice the digital model with Grasshopper software. The result is an implied form with 80% void.
The perceived solidity of the urn changes at different viewpoints, yet the physical reality is that 80% of the form remains ‘lost’. The sliced discs of the urn are cantilevered from a slender tubular core and held in compression by a hidden threaded fixing in the finial. The form and structure were tested with a physical model.
The same viewpoint in reality.
In keeping with Pope’s inspiration, the transforming urn provides an intriguing focal point for the new landscaping of Champion’s Wharf.
Standing at 2.5m height, the urn and pedestal are made out of Corten steel. This contemporary material has been chosen to harmonise with the colours of the setting on Champion’s Wharf, and in particular for the red brick of much of the context, including St Mary’s Church and Sundial House. Corten steel naturally weathers to form a protective, oxidised surface and will assume an attractive russet colour. It is very strong and maintenance free and it does not require painting. The neoclassical form of the urn shares the language of the 18th Century architecture of the church and the pedestal relate to more recent neoclassical balustrades which are an existing feature of the river frontage of the Champion’s Wharf. Quotations from the poet Alexander Pope were selected and etched into the pedestal of the Urn and carved into the new seating on the site, using CNC cutting techniques. This should provide a popular and accessible introduction to the poet and his work.