Belinda’s residency at Berkeley Castle
Belinda got off to a great start in 2017 with the stunning stags on the Game Larder. It’s incredible how the Castle continued to inspire Belinda to create so many wonderful pieces of art throughout the year; from the exquisite Butterfly House to the intriguing twelfth century Berkeley Witch story illustrated and recreated for our Halloween event at the end of the season.
Many of Belinda’s creations are on sale in our Gift Shop, so if you want a special memento of your visit to Berkeley Castle, do make sure you take a look at the items on sale there.
If you’d like to meet Belinda, she’s here most Wednesdays throughout the season and would love to see you and chat about her work.
We’re delighted that Belinda will continue her residency in 2018 and are waiting with anticipation to see what comes along this year!
A message from our new Artist in Residence – Belinda Durrant
I have always had a vivid imagination. As a child I lived in a world of make-believe and fairy tale. Fairy tale often confronts the dark and unpleasant but this never put me off. There was a sort of romantic excitement in it.
I still have a yearning for the romance of fairy tale, but my imaginings are now strengthened by experience and knowledge.
Science, history, social history, literature and folklore all become entangled with and inform the imagery of my work.
I am very much looking forward to my Residency at Berkeley Castle.
Berkeley Castle is bursting with the romantic beauty of a fairy tale and yet it is no fairy tale castle.
Its history goes back over 1000 years.
The actions of some of the Lords of Berkeley, the custodians of the Castle were pivotal in the history of this country.
Just think of all the stories it has to tell; stories from a far away time.
Many we know to be fact but some have perhaps become a little ‘embellished’.
It was bound to happen I suppose, through the Chinese whispers of time.
I am intrigued by the strange mixture of fact and fiction in some of the stories. It adds another dimension somehow and I am looking forward to delving into this.
I am a scientist as well as an artist, and I feel a need for the truth, but I am not going to let historical fact get in the way of my enjoyment of any romantic embellishments.
There is something else to remember too. Berkeley Castle is also a home and like all family homes, it holds family stories: stories of happiness, sadness, family feuds, bravery and the spirit of adventure.
I visited the Castle several times during the 2016 season, and each time I was carried along by its atmosphere.
I came to a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Castle grounds…the most perfect setting for that play. It was, after all, written for a Berkeley wedding. How much more romantic can you get?
In contrast, there was the spooky fun of Halloween week, with owls flying in the great hall and medieval spells and potions in the beer cellar.
And then there is the Butterfly House, with its tropical butterflies, tiny quail and diamond doves…and it is full of budding young naturalists in the summer.
So many contrasts, so much inspiration...
Works Made for Berkeley Castle
My work is inspired in all sorts of different ways. Little snippets of information, verbal anecdotes or visual triggers can all initiate the creative process.
Looking at us accusingly from the Victorian game larder, the inspiration for this majestic creatures came about after I overheard one of the guides recounting the story of Queen Elizabeth I’s rather over-enthusiastic deer hunt during her stay at the Castle in 1574. She killed twenty-seven of the then Lord Berkeley’s breeding stags!
Made after spending time in the Butterfly House, these are paper-cut and too fragile to be worn. They reflect the gentle care required while moving around in a butterfly house and the fragile, ephemeral nature of a butterfly.
A more literal investigation of the ephemeral nature of butterflies. After all, butterfly wings make an impossible building material! The child-like design of the house, the little light inside and the double meaning of the title introduce a more playful aspect, intended to reflect the enjoyment children get from visiting the Butterfly House.
The coat of arms on the pond wall was inspired by the beautiful stained glass representation of the coat of arms of Thomas de Berkeley, the Fifth Baron Berkeley in the Great Hall. With a little research I discovered that the Berkeleys used mermaids on their coats of arms for over 100 years between the 1360s and 1460s.
This was made after watching falconry displays and seeing, close up, the beautifully made hoods used to keep the birds calm when not being flown. Although made from leather, they resemble tiny armoured helmets so I made this lead representation. It is much heavier than the real thing and was never intended to be worn. Its weight infers a literal weighing down of the bird to keep it from flight.
There are twelve pewter asparagus spear moulds in storage at the Castle. A little research proved them to be intended for making novelty ice cream, a confection that was very fashionable at the dinner parties of the Victorian upper classes. Unfortunately the lead content of the moulds is too great to attempt to recreate this, but to show off their botanically accurate shape I made an inedible bunch of asparagus from plaster of Paris.
Drain Bracket Casts
Drainpipe brackets are not normally worthy of a second glance, but those at Berkeley Castle are special because they are so ornate. I have set about making a collection of plaster casts of as many as possible, starting with those that are easily accessible. Some patterns are unique (I think) such as a bowl of fruit, and others are repeated throughout the building, for example the Tudor rose, Bishop’s mitre, lion rampant, and the Berkeley Knot. This is an emblem resembling a Celtic knot that also occurs in the stained glass at the Castle. I am hoping to get one of each, eventually.
The Berkeley Witch
Although the story of the Berkeley Witch, first recorded in the twelfth century is not specific to the Castle but rather to the town of Berkeley, it was perfect for inclusion in the Halloween event at the Castle. I studied medieval illustration and illumination before making an abridged illustrated version for display.