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Sculpture of Julius Caesar by Greg Wyatt

Dr Paul Edmondson and Professor Sir Stanley Wells discuss sculptures of Shakespeare's plays with the sculptor, Greg Wyatt. This sculpture depicts Julius Caesar.


Wells: It’s very much a play about speech-making, isn’t it, about the power of rhetoric and of oratory to sway a man—to sway a man for good and for bad. The interest is very much shared among Brutus, Cassius, and Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and so you have here a number of faces. This is the most facial of the sculptures, isn’t it? The very cruel face of Cassius it seems to be to the left.

Wyatt: Yes, almost wearing the face of a murderer. The ‘ladder of ambition’ phrase really guides the fabrication. An architectural ladder sits on all four sides, but then as it enters through and merges with the frontality of the composition, it still remains as the step-by-step elevation into the defeat. And, of course, you have the daggers, the physical evidence of the violence.

Edmondson: And that’s all captured at the back of the sculpture, the stabbing of Caesar from the front and the back but especially the back of this sculpture.

Wyatt: Yes, yeah.

Edmondson: One of the daggers certainly invites you to reach up and hold it, almost to pull it out of the sculpture or even to drive it in further, so the sense in which we too can stab Caesar. And there’s Roman coins! Look at that.

Wyatt: Oh you hadn’t noticed these?

Edmondson: No!

Wyatt: Yes, I created them using something known as ‘alto-relief’. There are three possibilities of compression in the typography of sculpture format. The most common one is the bas-relief, but even lower—and sometimes much more of a drawing than it is a projection of form—is a compression known as the ‘alto-relief’.

Wells: The fact that one hadn’t noticed the coins originally is an example of the way that these sculptures go on yielding up their secrets—they’re inexhaustible.

Wyatt: Well it’s composed like a movie, except it’s very different as well. In a movie, you’re looking from a stationary point of view at your seat and the images go in a direction into the future. In public art sculpture, the stationariness of the work is revolved around, so in a freeform, non-directional, non-manipulative manner, you can engage the play. You can read the play, as we’ve seen many times students come to an access point like this and we have the benches. Many times I have been in the garden and there is reading of the play.

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