Photo Credit: Nayan Kulkarni
‘Hryre’ (the word for ‘ruin’ in Old English) is a new artwork created to explore the medieval heritage of Chester and of St John’s Church in particular. It draws on the research of the ‘Mapping Medieval Chester’ project and is part of a new ‘Discover Medieval Chester’ project both funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (ahrc). Artist Nayan Kulkarni was commissioned to produce this artwork by Cheshire West & Chester Council’s Arts & Festivals team in partnership with Museum Service, Street Lighting and Chester Renaissance. The artwork is funded by Cheshire West & Chester Council, Chester Renaissance and the ahrc. Nayan has worked closely with Professor Catherine Clarke of the English Department at Southampton University, who is also the Director of the ‘Mapping Medieval Chester’ research. They have refined the ideas in conjunction with local people through workshops and discussion groups.The projections across the ruins at St John’s are formed from fragments of medieval texts which describe the city of Chester in English, Latin and Welsh. Medieval Chester was a multi-cultural city with a rich multi-lingual tradition which these texts reflect.As the words are projected across the uneven, fractured stonework, they take on new shapes and abstract visual forms. Some letters and words remain legible and are designed to open up ideas and themes for reflection. The artwork asks viewers to contemplate subjects such as ruin and memory, decay and survival, the passing of time and the idea of a spiritual, peaceful place.The illumination is created by combining light and projected text from different positions around the ruins. A remote computer controls which lights are on at any moment. This means that the artwork gently changes from hour to hour and night to night revealing the different qualities of the ruins and highlighting the texts. Sometimes the work is a bold illumination and at other times there is a more subtle play of light and shadow.