Design unveiled for Yeats sculpture planned for Chiswick

Image above: Impression of how Enwrought Light would look outside St Michael & All Angels Church

A group in Bedford Park who have commissioned a sculpture celebrating the Nobel Prize winning Irish poet WB Yeats, has unveiled the design.

Yeats lived in Bedford Park with his family as a young man and the sculpture is planned to go outside St Michael & All Angels’ Church, on the corner of Bath Rd.

At first sight it might not be what you’d expect, but organiser Cahal Dallat, who is himself a poet and a resident of Chiswick, explained to The Chiswick Calendar that the WB Yeats Bedford Park Artwork Project didn’t want a statue of the great writer, but rather an art work which captured his spirit and illustrated how growing up in Bedford Park had inspired him.

Called Enwrought Light, by Conrad Shawcross, it was the line from Yeats’ poem He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven which caught the artist’s imagination, in particular the lines:

Enwrought with golden and silver light
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light

The artwork will catch ambient light, day and night, picking up on the theme of light which runs through Yeats’ poems, but also symbolising the Bohemian culture in which Yeats grew up, representing Victorian Bedford Park as a place of enlightenment: a place whose advanced egalitarian, spiritual, feminist, anti-colonial, multi-cultural, even vegetarian ideas, would become mainstream a hundred years later.

The sculpture can also be seen as a swirl of autumn leaves or a flight of birds.

Image above: artist Conrad Shawcross; Enwrought Light

A major artwork by one of London’s leading artists

The artist Conrad Shawcross is the youngest member of the Royal Adacemy of Arts. His work has been commissioned for several pretigious sites: The Dappled Light of the Sun in the Royal Academy Courtyard, the dramatic and environmentally sensitive Optic Cloak on the Greenwich Peninsula, Paradigm at the Crick Institute, Axiom at the Ministry of Justice and Manifold 5:4 at the Moorgate entrance of Liverpool Street Elizabeth line station are just a few of his pieces in public spaces.

His work is shown all over the world: in France, the USA and China, Italy, Spain, Germany and Mexico. He often uses geometrical constructions and illustrates scientific and philosophical themes.

‘As a committee – that’s Fr. Kevin Morris, vicar of St. Michael and All Angels and a real poetry enthusiast, Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival, Matthew Fay, whose great-grandfather formed the world-famous Abbey Theatre with Yeats based on Yeats’s initial Bedford Park drama experiments, local author Polly Devlin, and Councillor Gerald McGregor – we agreed’, says Cahal ‘it was Yeats as a young cutting-edge London artist that we wanted to celebrate, and so Conrad Shawcross, as a cutting-edge London artist of today, and, coincidentally the youngest Royal Academician, was the perfect find, especially as he’s excelled at contemporary design in heritage settings such as Wilton Crescent and the Royal Academy Courtyard.’

Conrad came to Bedford Park, took part in one of Cahal’s Yeats walking tours that he puts on for the Bedford Park Festival, he met the committee, and listened to local architects, planners, historians and literary historians. Conrad is the son of royal biographer, William Shawcross, and author and academic Marina Warner. Roy Foster, Yeats’s authoritative biographer, is a family friend.

Images above: William Butler Yeats by John Singer Sargent, 1908; house in Woodstock Rd where Yeats lived

Pledges of support needed by Friday 26 February

The WB Yeats Bedford Park Artwork Project has applied for planning permission. The application has been accepted and put on LB Hounslow’s planning portal and planning permission will be decided in a few weeks’ time.

Meanwhile they are fundraising against the clock to raise £136,439 for the sculpture to be made and installed. They raised £24,500 with Yeats talks and walks over the past few years, which has funded the project so far. They have received £30,000 from institutions: £5,000 from the Irish embassy and £25,000 from the Royal Academy’s Sir George Frampton Fund. 

Now they have launched a fundraising page in Spacehive  and since the page went up on Wednesday 17 February, they have already received nearly £6,000 from local residents. They have to meet their target £136,439 by 11 May 2021 in order for the project to go ahead.

So far the £35,828 pledged has come from 73 backers (including the institutional funding). They have to have at least 100 backers by Friday, so to meet that target it doesn’t matter if people give only £10 or £20. They need to show a breadth of interest from the local community at this stage. If they meet that target, there is a chance of major funding from the Mayor’s office.

The project has been designated a COVID-recovery project by the Mayor of London’s #MakeLondon team. COVID recovery projects are designed to enhance the environments in which people live, particularly as we are much more locally based because of the pandemic.

‘The local support since Wednesday’s launch has been incredible’ says Cahal ‘in terms of number and value of pledges. People are clearly inspired by the design and encouraged by the Royal Academy’s announcement.

‘An award like that wasn’t even in our sights when we started looking for an artist. What we did know from responses to our talks, and walks, and media coverage in The Chiswick Calendar two years ago, as well as via our own website and newsletters, we found local residents didn’t simply want a statue of Yeats – ‘we already have Hogarth at the other end of Turnham Green Terrace!’

‘What was needed was an artwork that would communicate a vision of how Yeats’s genius had been nurtured by the Bedford Park community and inspired by its intellectual and artistic ambience’.

Cahal, who has been a cultural commentator and art-critic on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Review for the past 20 years, describes the sculpture as ‘a dazzling and context-sensitive design’ and a ‘major’ artwork by a very exciting artist.

Torin Douglas, Director of the Chiswick Book Festival said:

“I think this sculpture would be an inspiring way to mark Bedford Park‘s influence on the life and work of Yeats, one of two winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature who lived in Chiswick.”

Read more about the project on the WB Yeats Bedford Park website.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Profile of WB Yeats in Chiswick by Lucinda MacPherson

See also: Explore Chiswick’s cultural history online and on foot

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