New visual art links the past and the present

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Two new pieces of visual art were launched today, as Chester’s artistic renaissance continues following the success of “Ark” at Chester Cathedral and Chester Visual Arts’ “Pop art in print” . The two pieces, Hypercaust by Bedwyr Williams (Storyhouse) and Maelstrom by David Cotterrell (King Charles Tower) were introduced today by the two artists, Storyhouse artistic director Alex Clifton and Cllr Louise Gittins.


David Cotterrell, Alex Clifton and Bedwyr Williams


Hypercaust combines a lifelike digital recreation of the Roman bathhouse with snippets of modern day Chester in a powerful combination which is both amusing and thought provoking. The work illustrates not only our Roman legacy but the value of our modern day memories and culture. Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams told guests that :

“When I was commissioned I thought about what the name Storyhouse meant. Then I thought about the Roman history and I knew that there was a bathhouse that once stood near here. On one hand I had the idea of showing something of how it used to be, going into a moment in the past, rather than an academic explanation of how it was. At the same time I wanted to say something from the city from a more oblique point of view and I decided to do that by exploring the archives of the paper and speaking to various Cestrians. I was particularly attracted to the banal side stories, small incidental column fillers that local papers used to be full of. Little snippets which caught my eye..I’ve made a bonkers locomotive of stories from Chester’s past. ”

The  amusing stories read out in the artist’s deadpan Welsh accent contrast with the realistic computer imagery and the solemn music. Listen out for mentions of a mouldy sausage roll, a council row over lumps of hair clogging up swimming pools, a blind waiter, or references to bygone locations including the Gateway theatre and Cinderella Rockerfellers. As the stories fade away, the art resembles a twitter feed as one story, anecdote or happening merges into the next to great effect.  The artwork can be viewed inside Storyhouse until the 11th November.


The second piece of art, Maelstrom by installation artist and digital media expert David Cotterrell can be viewed after dusk from King Charles’ Tower. David has devised  a lighting projection system that will shift the understanding of the existing surface of the canal, through the illusion of shadows and movement. The projector will animate the water by overlaying the effect of light and shadow, giving the impression that a whirlpool appears and disappears. David said that :

“Chester benefits and is dominated by the incredibly rich heritage that it has. I grew up in East London where a lot of the landscape was destroyed and in Chester there is so much left that links us back 2000 years. It can be hard to compete with something that has such resonance with the past , but Chester is much more complex than external assumptions might suggest. Its a complex living city with landscapes that are failing us and landscapes that are world heritage sites. ” He also spoke of the role of art in opening up neglected landscapes, in particular the waterways and King Charles’ Tower gardens which was previously an overgrown wasteland.

“My work involves championing your ambiguity of what you’re looking at. Whirlpools are a bit of a fantasy that most people never see. They are the stuff of imagination and people can project onto them what they want. ”


Reflecting on the new art and the council’s Heritage and Visual Arts Strategy Cllr Louise Gittins said that the vison was to use “use histories, stories and traditions  to inspire and engage our visitors and communities.  The city is the stage, and we aspire for the city to be recognised for high quality visual arts alongside and interacting with our wonderful heritage.”  She said that the 2 artworks would encourage the public to stop and reflect and view the city from alternative perspectives. “Storyhouse has commissioned a 4 year programme of public art, that will interact with audiences in new and imaginative ways. It will also emerging artists to create work. Supporting these main pieces of art are other programmes, including working in partnership with the university of Chester to mentor and guide two postgraduate students- Kate Gater and Estelle Wooley.” Both pieces can be seen in King Charles’ Tower. Working with the Grosvenor Museum a schools programme has also been developed.



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