Building the ‘Darwing Reliquary’

June 24, 2013

So, here are a few images of the 3-D installation piece I made for the exhibition ‘Memory Palace’ which has just opened at the V&A, based on Hari Kunzru’s new work of fiction. It’s also a chance for me to thank Marco Nisbet who did such a top job on building the beautiful wooden cabinet upon which I stuck all sorts of bits and pieces. I must also thank Louise Clark, for her endless patience over the last few months, sticking and sewing together all sorts of bits and pieces, including the crows shown below. So here are the initial designs I made for the installation piece, followed by Marco’s cabinet:

 

Concept drawing

Concept drawing

Marco's Cabinet

Marco’s Cabinet

The doors I painted first, this left hand door, seen here almost finished, is a modern take on van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross, this is watercolour with gold leaf. I later aged it with sandpaper, cracking varnish and a toothbrush…a decision I’m still not sure was the right one…

Left door, in progress

Left door, in progress

I built the prisoner’s cell into the upper half of the reliquary cabinet, which is almost entirely hidden from view now, just the chair and barred window is visible through the spyhole at the top. Here is the cell before I closed it off…

Fig_b

Prisoner’s cell

I had great fun making the little diorama through the window; the cloud is a lump of cotton wool, the crows are carved out of tiny pieces of balsawood.

Carving the medallion

Carving the medallion

 

I used balsawood to carve other details on the cabinet, such as the medallion for ‘Milord Darwing’s’ portrait miniature. Here’s the finished medallion, it’s only small:

Detail from the 'Darwing Reliquary'

Detail from the ‘Darwing Reliquary’

I spent a lot of time adding little decorative pieces to the cabinet, and a lot of gold leaf…over £300 of gold in fact. It’s amazing stuff to use, but it depends heavily on the way it’s illuminated. (Gold looks incredible in candlelight), the little marble pieces are…well…little marbles.

Details of cabinet

Details of cabinet

I enjoyed making these little pieces, such as HMS Beagle and this tiny bird carved from balsa (only 12mm high)

HMS Beagle

HMS Beagle

Tiny Bird

Tiny Bird

Here are some of the crows that are perched high up in the museum, quite crude but Louise and I had great fun making them.

Crows, freshly stuffed

Crows, freshly stuffed

So there you have it, the finished piece, some 6 months of work, and just a part of the installation which also included a number of wall mounted illustrations. A LOT of work, some serious stress, but I’m glad we did it. It’s the first 3-D piece I’ve attempted as a commission, I’d like to try another, perhaps smaller, cabinet in the future. Thanks to the V&A staff who installed it too, they were brilliant!

The 'Darwing' reliquary completed.

The ‘Darwing’ reliquary completed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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