On a beautiful midsummer’s evening The Whistler was invited to the launch of an exciting installation at the Royal Pavilion which is part of a nationwide museumaker project and runs until 16 January 2011. This the first time a contemporary artist has been commissioned to create an installation for the interior of the Royal Pavilion. Clare Twomey has installed a swarm of 3000 exquisitely made, black-glazed ceramic butterflies in the Banqueting Room, Great Kitchen, Entrance Hall and other rooms in the Royal Pavilion. The butterflies cluster on the banqueting table, across window panes, inside grand lights, on mantelpieces and other surfaces.
The Royal Pavilion was created by John Nash for the Prince Regent. An exotic, oriental pleasure palace, its magnificent interior is a reflection of the monarch’s personality and the Regency period. Clare Twomey’s ‘swarm of beautiful menace’ provides a ‘veil of mourning’, enabling visitors to reflect on this building’s past culture of hedonism, as well as inviting them to consider their own values and priorities. The butterflies can be seen across several sites in the Royal Pavilion, with the greatest numbers suspended in ‘angry flurries’ at the windows of the Banqueting Room, between the columns in the Great Kitchen and in the Entrance Hall vestibule. They are all individually finished: some with wings open, some almost completely folded in on themselves, some in flight, others looking sedentary.
Clare Twomey explains, “I was drawn to the Royal Pavilion because of its profound beauty and excess. As I studied the interior, I noticed the icon of the butterfly. It is very temporal and, if you see one, it is for a moment – magical and frivolous. The black silhouettes of my butterflies are very graphic and will be a prominent contrast against the vibrancy of the Pavilion’s colourful interiors.” David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion, reflects, “In Antiquity the butterfly, emerging from the chrysalis, came to symbolise the soul leaving the body at death. Christian art’s depiction of the life cycle of the caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly is equated with life, death, and resurrection. The transient beauty of the butterfly could be a metaphor for the transience of life and the vanity of earthly things. The swarms of butterflies in the Pavilion, at once beautiful and threatening, will both seduce and disturb the visitor and will add another perspective within the narrative of the building.”