These Lovely Gardens Were Available.So I Chose the Shed; It's All Happening in the Potting Shed at Cheeseburn. DAVID WHETSTONE Gets the Lowdown from the North East Young Sculptor of the Year

The Journal (Newcastle, England), May 19, 2018 | Go to article overview

These Lovely Gardens Were Available.So I Chose the Shed; It's All Happening in the Potting Shed at Cheeseburn. DAVID WHETSTONE Gets the Lowdown from the North East Young Sculptor of the Year


Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

SOMETHING'S stirring in the potting shed and it's likely to be a star attraction as Cheeseburn Sculpture Gardens, Northumberland, open for the first time in 2018. Peter Hanmer, from Alnwick, is the Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor of the Year and his miniature epic, Plato's Lair, is the realisation of his winning proposal. This time last year it was a model and a few explanatory words - on show with other shortlisted proposals at the sculpture park at Cheeseburn Grange, near Stamfordham. The public had to vote for which idea they liked best, dropping a marble into an upturned flower pot, and Peter's got the nod - a result then endorsed by an expert panel.

So it was Peter, currently completing his MA studies in fine art at Newcastle University, who got the PS6,500 grant from the Gillian Dickinson Trust to work up his idea into a fully fledged sculptural attraction.

Last year, if you remember, it was Scurry, Dan Gough's ceramic war of the squirrels which saw hundreds of the creatures, red versus grey, scampering across a Cheeseburn lawn.

You could hardly miss that. This time, though, people will have to venture into the atmospheric darkness of the potting shed to appreciate the work of his successor. "When I initially came to Cheeseburn and had a look round I saw these beautiful gardens and then I saw this dark potting shed," said Peter.

"I thought: that's the place for me.

"One of the first things I thought about when I walked in was that famous story of the prisoners in the cave.

"They're chained and their reality is the shadows flickering on the wall in front of them.

"They can't see the puppets behind them or the fire throwing their shadows on the wall."

This is the story from book seven of Plato's Republic, the Greek philosopher's influential and much studied work about justice and the ideal state.

It was published in about 350BC and purports to be an account of the thinking of Plato's predecessor, Socrates, one of the founders of western philosophy.

In this part of Republic he was exploring the idea that the prisoners Turn to Page 54 From Page 53 in the cave know only one reality - even though it's made of puppets and shadows and patently isn't real at all.

When one prisoner escapes to the outside world, at first he is blinded by the light and wants to flee back inside.

In Peter's potting shed it's all happening as a cast of miniature figures act out a Lilliputian version of the cave allegory.

Peter started work on his installation last September, drawing plans and gathering the material.

He had the basis of a set, the potting shed with its stacks of pots of various sizes and its wooden benches.

His figures, 30 or 40 of them, came from eBay or car boot sales. "There are quite a few David Tennants in there," he said. That's David Tennant as Doctor Who.

Peter altered his figures to become the cast of Plato's Lair. In his three dimensional telling of the tale they seem to be either not quite human or in tribal masks.

"They have these beaks growing out from their heads. I wanted to show them as being a bit closer to animals than we think we are. …

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These Lovely Gardens Were Available.So I Chose the Shed; It's All Happening in the Potting Shed at Cheeseburn. DAVID WHETSTONE Gets the Lowdown from the North East Young Sculptor of the Year
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