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The Walls Have Ears & Regarding Wrecks

Made:       2015

Shown:    National Trust Penrhyn Castle - Bangor, North Wales

Project Partners:    National Trust, Arts Council of Wales

I was invited to become Artist in Residence within National Trust's Penrhyn Castle, Bangor, North Wales in 2016.

Whilst living and working in the castle I became fascinated with the wood-lined, highly ornate Library. Within each of corner of the L-shaped room, held carved wooden heads of human and beasts that guard the books. Made by the crafts people that constructed the space, this flexing of personality and craft was one of the perks for being a carver 150 years ago.


I imaged what was observed by these heads and made an artwork to reveal the wood-locked narratives. To make the work I absorbed current uttering from staff, volunteers and the visiting masses within the room via dictaphone and animated the faces with this chat. The artwork was delivered via a tour of the room using a portable projector and speaker to overlay the new animated projects onto the static historic carvings. 


"The neo-Norman style of Thomas Hopper’s Penrhyn building includes many cleverly carved depictions of carved grotesque creatures and people within the architectural detailing: the walls at Penrhyn really do have ears, (and faces and mouths). What if they could relate stories of what they had seen, voice their opinions, pass judgement? Artist Alec Stevens has animated some of the grotesques by making articulated masks of those in the Library, and wearing them while lip-synching snatched stories about the castle from volunteer staff, and the reactions of visitors."

Sara Roberts, Project Curator

In addition to the work made for the Library, I created a suite of drawings that reacted to a seemly unremarkable chunk of wood in the larger collection. George Sholto Douglas-Pennant, the Castles initial owner's souvenir of a local tragedy, the fragment of the ship the Royal Charter, which was shipwrecked off the coast of Moelfre on Anglesey in 1859.


The ornately carved fragment is normally displayed in Lord Penrhyn’s Sitting Room, a space in the Castle that is only accessible by timed appointment. Why is this evidence of a sad story so powerful? I made it the beginning of a collection of made-up tragic objects for the castle, to be presented as if it were real. These were shown as a series of drawings If the proposal were realised, they would be carved in wood and meticulously labelled with their fictional stories of tragedy.

Text derived from Sara Roberts description of my work at Penrhyn Castle.

Sara Roberts, Project Curator

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