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Two Sculptures Celebrate Shakespeare's Death's Big 400

One is the size of a pin, while the other is made up of 2,000 steel stars.
April 25, 2016, 4:55pm
Image courtesy of Andrew Fox

From John Everett Millais’ iconic floating Ophelia to William Blake’s Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing, William Shakespeare has long been a source of inspiration for the visual arts. For the last 400 years, artists have been producing work in a multitude of different mediums based around the Bard's creative influence. It is generally accepted that Shakespeare was born on the April 23, 1564, coincidentally the same date he was purported to have died on in 1616. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death, and to commemorate this momentous occasion, two artists have created interpretations of the Bard’s likeness.

Image courtesy of Daniel McClane

Sculptor Willard Wigan—a leading micro-sculptor—has created a Shakespeare figurine so tiny it fits within the eye of a needle. You have to peer through a high-powered microscope to view it. Entitled To See or Not To See, Wigan’s microscopic playwright is being shown at Light House Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom in an exhibition that highlights the artistic influence of Shakespeare in Western England.

Although little but fierce, Wigan’s To See or Not To See took over four weeks to create and consists of the figure of Shakespeare standing tall in Elizabethan purple stockings and a blue tunic and breeches with the words To See or Not To See written underneath. Photographer Daniel McClane told The Creators Project, “When you compare the image to the sculpture itself it’s hard to believe they’re the same thing. Wigan set the piece up under the microscope, I attached the camera to it using a special adapter, we tested it out with a number of different colored backgrounds to develop the overall image.”

Image courtesy of Andrew Fox

The image itself is a testament to the extraordinary lengths that Wigan has gone to as an artist. Wigan has perfected his process into an excruciating artistic procedure; via a meditative technique, he has learned to breathe at specific moments, he also sculpts between heartbeats, controlling the pulse in his fingers. His Shakespeare is constructed using synthetic materials and painted using a tiny fibre that extracts from the air as a brush.

Also opening in Shakespeare’s birthplace of Stratford-Upon-Avon, The Royal Shakespeare Company has unveiled Brighton-based artist Steven Follen's three-dimensional sculpture of a beautiful face named For All Time, made from 2,000 stainless steel stars.

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In Romeo and Juliet, the latter's celestial worship of her star-crossed lover is the inspiration behind Follen’s sculpture For All Time. Her words announce: “When he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine, That all the world will be in love with the night, And pay no worship to the garish sun.” The arresting visage sways above the stained glass in the newly refurbished Swan Wing of the RSC. The gentle movement of the 2,000 suspended stars breathes life into the sculpture, making it seem as corporeal as the characters being brought to life in the RSC today.

Image courtesy of Andrew Fox

Many of the visual traditions within Shakespeare’s plays reveal aesthetic ideals and concepts; showcasing the relevance between the visual image, the spoken word, and the overall integration of the arts into his work. As Shakespeare’s work is the origin of so many phrases in the English language today, Follen’s sculpture reminds us that by examining concepts up close, we can recognize Shakespeare’s overall poetic influence. As the chorus pleads in the prologue to Henry V: “Think when we talk of horses, that you see them Printing their proud hoofs in the receiving earth; For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings.” His plays were constructed not only in the playhouses but also in the minds of the playgoers. In this work, Follen cleverly asks us to reexamine the visual and the visceral in Shakespeare’s language.

To learn more of Wigan's work click here. To learn more of Follen's work, click here.

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