Public art

‘Hryre’ (the word for ‘ruin’ in Old English) by Nayan Kulkarni is an 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 ‘Discover Medieval Chester’ project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (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.

Photograph by Nayan Kulkarni

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.

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.

Read the medieval texts in full and explore the digital atlas of medieval Chester at Medieval Chester.

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