Shakespeare and Soulton at centre of innovative art project

Renowned artist Jacob Chandler and Soulton Hall, the historic country house in Wem, have unveiled a new art project that intertwines the timeless works of William Shakespeare with contemporary forms. Jacob Chandler, celebrated for his striking Commonwealth Games sculpture at Birmingham New Street station and the rugby players at Rugby services on the M6, has embarked on a  journey to explore Shakespeare’s inner world through geometric relief prints.

“This project is like no other I’ve worked on,” says Jacob.  The 2m tall relief prints will be displayed at Soulton Hall before traveling to esteemed locations including, Oxford, London and Shrewsbury.

“Tim Ashton of Soulton Hall, saw Jacob’s pieces at the Soden Collection gallery in Shrewsbury and thought they would be a perfect fit for the project,” said gallery owner Jonathan Soden.

To ensure his portrayals are both authentic and contemporary, Jacob collaborated with The Globe, The Royal Shakespeare Company, and accessed the BBC archive. Drawing inspiration from performances by esteemed actors like Helen Mirren and David Tennant, he distilled character and emotion into fundamental shapes.

Careful scholarship led by James D. Wenn of the consultancy Byrga Geniht Ltd (with support from Christine Schmidle and the Ashton family) has firmly established the long-standing local tradition that Shakespeare’s As You Like It, is set in Shropshire, at Soulton Hall. The play’s character Old Sir Rowland is believed to be inspired by Sir Rowland Hill, the builder of Soulton Hall and a significant figure in England’s history, who published the Geneva Bible in 1560. Notably, Sir Rowland Hill was a cousin of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden.

Jacob Chandler’s angular interpretations imbue the characters with a timeless quality, reflecting the enduring relevance of Shakespeare’s works. “This abstraction and rendering of the figures in geometric forms invites viewers to think about the mathematics in Renaissance harmony,” says Tim Ashton.

Chandler has released Silvius and Phoebe ahead of the exhibition, offering a glimpse into his innovative approach. This exhibition promises to be a profound exploration of Shakespearean themes through the lens of modern art, engaging with one of Shropshire’s most historic estates. Soulton Hall has a complex and important history, layered like the centuries it has witnessed and repeatedly resonating with the story of England and beyond with its architectural beauty and rich cultural heritage. The Ashton family continue to celebrate and preserve the arts, history, and scholarship through various projects and collaborations.

CAPTION: Jacob Chandler with Phoebe and Silvius.

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