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Sculpture of The Tempest 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 The Tempest.


Wells: Of course the play begins with a shipwreck and we have a ship there foremost in the sculpture.

Wyatt: There’s actually a storm indicated too, if you look carefully.

Edmondson: And it takes place on an island and we’ve got the waves as it were coming towards us almost as if we’re looking onto the island. Every single time I look at these I see more detail and this bearded figure—Greg, is this Prospero in your imagination?  

Wyatt: Yes, it’s positioned centrally within the composition of the frontality of the sculpture and it has plenty of heroic character. And that gets me on the viewpoint that I have here on the left profile the suggestion of the cave. In this instance, I was recalling my visit to Staffa—the island of Staffa—and I actually created some water colour studies where Mendelssohn created the—

Wells: Oh the Fingal’s Cave.

Wyatt: [Nodding] The Fingal’s Cave

Edmondson: Not Fingal’s Cave but Prospero’s Cave. It’s almost as if you could climb into this sculpture round that other side.

Wyatt: That’s right, you can occupy the brain of Prospero.

Wells: What about the wing here, is this to do with Ariel?

Wyatt: Well, with Ariel and you know there is a suggestion and as you are looking at suggestion of faces, you have an Ariel presence within the wood, the cloven tree.

Edmondson: So Ariel has been placed in a cloven pine by Sycorax the witch, and Prospero famously sets him free.

Wells: All the images slowly emerge the way that images do in a dream, isn’t it. There is no naturalistic pattern to the sculpture; there a series of floating images which one can go on looking at them and seeing new things in it constantly—which is one reason why these sculptures are so fascinating to our visitors. They can go on looking at them, and especially if they know the plays, of course, they can identify various aspects of the plays within details of the sculpture.

Wyatt: And there are different scales and sizes to the three-dimensional forms: some of these are expected and some are unexpected. For instance, it changes the relationship of the guests and viewers of the entire composition to see that they, at the one hand, are much larger than the storm and the shipwreck, but Prospero is much larger than we. So in a dream you have these possibilities, which Shakespeare knew quite well.

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