Chess - The Immortal Game

In January 2016 I decided to embark on a project which was to be my most ambitious to date. I needed something that would serve both as an opportunity to develop my personal practice, and as a project that would allow me to finish my Masters Degree. I started my MA some years ago, and due to a variety of reasons hadn't been able to complete it... So this was the perfect chance for me to do both.

I have always been inspired by animal form and behaviour, and how anthropomorphism has been used as a device for storytelling throughout world culture and art, with earliest recorded examples dating from 32,000bc. The game of Chess is played throughout the world, and has a history spanning over 1500 years. 

I started my journey by looking at the 'Lewis Chessmen', which consist of 78 Chess pieces carved from walrus ivory and date to the middle of the 12th Century, they were discovered in 1831 in a sand dune in the Outer Hebrides. They are quite a magnificent set, and are believed to have originated in Norway, and bought to the western isles of Scotland when it was part of the kingdom of Norway. 

The 'Lewis Chessmen'

12th Century Carved Walrus Ivory.

Chess is the most enduring and universal game in history, and has illuminated our understanding of War, Art, Science, and the Human Brain. Our history and our literature is rich with tales of noble Kings and brave Knights, of love lost and found, and I see the game of Chess very much as a metaphor for life itself.

 

Wanting to draw upon anthropomorphism and the heraldic splendour associated with Kings & Queens, I began to explore the possible representations of each playing piece. 

The main piece is entitled "And then they went forth - For life they recked not” (From the poem The Battle of Maldon) 

Images of "And then they went forth..."

The 'Three Minute' Chess set

After three months of refining the large chess pieces, I wanted to set myself a challenge. There were various reasons for this and I saw the opportunity to allow for some freedom of expression within my work. 

By setting myself a strict target of no more than three minutes per piece allowed me to create fresh and lively pieces with energy and expression evident in every squeeze and pull of the clay.

This is the first of a series of 'Three Minute' sets. I gained a great deal of pleasure from making this particular set, and know that it will bring great pleasure to the new owner, who is a passionate chess player.