Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Everyman’s DNA Takes Centre Stage at Devonshire Dynasty’s Aristocratic Home - Chatsworth

Chatsworth, one of England’s most celebrated houses, has added to its collection of masterpieces by making ‘Everyman’ the centrepiece of its most important art installation since the creation of the Sculpture Gallery in 1832.
Jacob van der Beugel

The walls of the North Sketch Gallery have been completely covered with 659 textured, handmade ceramic panels in ‘The North Sketch Sequence’ by the artist Jacob van der Beugel. Raised ceramic blocks represent the DNA strand of ‘Everyman’ in the central portrait, which is flanked by the personal DNA profiles of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, their son Lord Burlington and his wife, Lady Burlington.

Chatsworth reopens to the public on the 16th March and on entering the Gallery (20 metres long, 4m high, 3m wide) visitors see the DNA profiles stretching, floor to ceiling, along one wall while they themselves are reflected back into the installation by the ceramic, framed mirror panels on the opposite wall. With mitochondrial DNA passed through the maternal line the installation plays with ideas around ancestry and inheritance as past, present and future members of the family are linked to the wider pool of humanity in an unusual and creative take on the traditional portrait.

'Everyman DNA'

DNA samples were taken from members of the Devonshire family and the results were translated onto ceramic panels, whilst aspects of each individual’s personality are captured on glazed pieces in their DNA sequence (see ‘notes to editors’). The Duke chose his favourite walk around Chatsworth’s garden; the Duchess chose her favourite piece of music, John Rutter’s ‘A Gaelic Blessing’; Lord Burlington surrounded himself with his wife, three children and two sisters; Lady Burlington chose stitching patterns she did as a girl with her grandmother.

The culmination of nearly four years work, each of the ochre-coloured panels is unique, and has been hand assembled and mounted by Jacob van der Beugel.  ‘The North Sketch Sequence’  will fit only in the North Sketch Gallery and is a groundbreaking fusion of art and architecture at Grade I listed Chatsworth, home to the Devonshire family for more than 400 years.

All of the ceramic panels, measuring
approximately 500mm x 350mm, have been handmade
Installation began in November 2013 when the North Sketch Gallery was closed to visitors. Van der Beugel, his engineer and a team of craftsmen have worked for four months to complete the work.

All of the ceramic panels, measuring approximately 500mm x 350mm, have been handmade by van der Beugel himself, and because of their large size he invented a new process to prevent them ‘curling’ while drying. As no comparable installation has been attempted before he has also had to build bespoke tools and engineer a unique fixing method.

Van der Beugel came up with the concept for an entire ceramic space embedded with the Devonshire family’s DNA after several discussions with the family. Excited and impressed by his vision and technical brilliance the Duke and Duchess and the Chatsworth House Trust commissioned him to undertake this major artistic and technical challenge.

Still only 35 years old Jacob van der Beugel was a pupil of the ceramicist Edmund de Waal and a bold choice for a commission of this importance. A thorough search by ceramics curator and consultant Joanna Bird narrowed to a six-strong shortlist to present to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and the Chatsworth House Trust.

The original project was for two floor to ceiling ‘chimney pieces’ in the North Sketch gallery but asked what he would really like to do van der Beugel went away and developed concepts for a complete ‘ceramic room’ and ‘The North Sketch Sequence’ was conceived. Following consultation with the architects Inskip & Jenkins, final plans were drawn up for approval by both the Duke and Duchess and English Heritage.

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