Writing coded messages - to be sealed with wax and attached to 'The Train of History' ...

Writing coded messages – to be sealed with wax and attached to ‘The Train of History’ …

COCOA: The Train of History

“Mary Queen of Scots banged-up in the slammer in Sheffield.

Lizzy mi Luv call off yr creepsy guards …”

Airport Security, Escafield 27, Geraldine Monk

Working with ARTBOAT artists Soo Boswell and Charlie Narozanska – and pupils from primary schools around Manor Lodge – COCOA (Castlegate Open Community Of Artists) have co-created a special train or robe for Mary Queen of Scots to wear during a ‘performance haunting’ of Persistence Works and Exchange Place Studios.

COCOA lead artist Paul Evans explains the inspiration and thoughts behind this artwork below.

“The idea behind the COCOA train of history came out of my research into the Castlegate Quarter of Sheffield. One of the most notorious events in this rich and complex period of time was the imprisonment in Sheffield Castle and Manor Lodge of Mary Queen of Scots (aka Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland), first cousin once removed to Elizabeth I of England. Taking place around 1569 this period of incarceration lasted for many years under the care of Lord Shrewsbury and his wife Bess of Hardwick (aka Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury). The poet Geraldine Monk has dealt with this subject in her very powerful ‘Escafield’ sequence of poems, a couple of lines from which are quoted above. I had the idea of a ‘train of history’ – a robe that might carry various narratives from the period of Mary’s imprisonment – whilst thinking about potential outcomes for my residency and how these might be displayed at Yorkshire Artspace Open Studios.

The train, which has been decorated in workshops by primary school children from the area around Manor Lodge, features a number of key elements. One of these is a bold representation of the course of the rivers Sheaf and Don – the point of their meeting or confluence being a key defensive feature in the original site of Sheffield Castle. This graphic device also echoes themes of confluence or meeting that have developed throughout my residency in the Castlegate Quarter over the summer. This confluence has taken the form of a collective poem written with the poet AB Jackson and a whole series of confluences between COCOA artists that took place during our COCOA Studio event over the weekend of the Castlegate Festival in June 2015.

The train also represents how craft can be used to develop themes of identity. Many artists, including the Turner Prize winners Tracy Emin and Grayson Perry, have worked in tapestry and embroidery to this effect, and the act of collective making – many hands formulating a narrative in cloth – goes back at least as far as the Bayeux Tapestry. There is an additional art-historical reference embodied in the cloak: Mary’s cousin, Queen Elizabeth I was often depicted in paintings of the time wearing robes that brimmed over with symbolic reference.

It was also important to me to make an object. Most of the outcomes and outputs of COCOA have been ephemeral, time based or in the form of texts. The train of history is a physical, wearable artwork that I hope will take its place in time as an artifact of lasting duration.”

Paul Evans 2015

The Train of History can be viewed as part of Yorkshire Artspace Open Studios 2015

Friday 20th November
Persistence Works (TIMING TBC)

Sunday 21st November
Manor Lodge Discovery Centre 11-12.30
Exchange Place studios (TIMING TBC)

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