A split-headed fish and seahorse, menacing boar, and armoured bird are about to make museum visitors think about the world famous Staffordshire Hoard in a completely different way.
The creations are some of 12 ceramic sculptures by internationally acclaimed artist Katherine Morling, and are her response to the ancient Anglo-Saxon treasures that hadn’t seen the light of day for more than 1,200 years.
An exhibition of Katherine’s work will go on permanent display at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery from Saturday (24 November).
Stoke-on-Trent City Council commissioned the creations, as part of the London 2012 Festival, a nationwide celebration of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which brought together leading artists from across the world. The £70,000 commission has been funded entirely by Arts Council England.
Katherine is a Royal College of Art graduate and 2010 World Crafts Council Triennial first prize winner. She is regarded as an up-and-coming star in the UK creative sector, and displayed a new installation of work in the Project Space of the Saatchi Gallery for COLLECT 2011 – the international fair for contemporary objects.
Katherine said: “I was amazed when I saw the Staffordshire Hoard, it was an incredible experience that really resonated with me, the fact that I was holding something that until recently hadn’t seen the light of day for centuries.
“I was particularly drawn to the depictions of the animals that decorate the hoard, what did they symbolise to the people who wore them on their armour? I took the tiny images from the hoard and transformed them into mythological god figures, brought to life in a kingdom of animal gods, representing the power that the original decorations on the armour symbolised and protecting their charges in battle. We believe that the Anglo-Saxons thought that these creatures were magical, powerful and could protect them. Today, I want to let the magic and power of those beliefs shine again.”
The Morling and the Hoard exhibition features sculptures that are approximately three-feet high, made out of earthstone clay, porcelain and black stain. The creations, in Katherine’s strikingly black and white designs, also include a horse god with sword and treasure chest on his back; a double-headed serpent with shield; a boar holding dogs, swans and other creatures on chain leads; a four-headed falcon; and ‘linkies’ – a series of creatures with interlacing arms, capturing some of the snake-like linked patterns on the Staffordshire Hoard.
A digital animation which reimagines the story of the hoard is also being staged as part of the exhibition. It depicts the story of the animal gods, how they rise from the hoard and transform into mythological gods.
Councillor Mark Meredith, cabinet member for economic development, said: “We are thrilled to be able to exhibit work from such an acclaimed artist, it is a fantastic coup for the city, and once again demonstrates the value and attraction of the Staffordshire Hoard – it is truly an unparalleled treasure which has immense appeal.
“Katherine’s work explores the mystic world of animal enchantment and the magic and the power embedded in our ancient beliefs. Each figure relates directly to the next, a casual glance, the tilt of a head, a knowing nod… it’s as if an ancient conversation has been frozen in time.
“We are delighted with Arts Council England’s generous support, and the real winners are visitors to our museum. Not only will visitors be able to see ancient artefacts from the largest and most valuable collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered, but they’ll also be able to see a unique and inspiring response to the treasure on permanent display.”
The largest ever exhibition of the Staffordshire Hoard is currently on show at the museum, and runs until 1 September 2013. The treasure is jointly owned by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council.