‘Chambers’ work is strikingly relevant because he takes the familiar and puts it on a bigger scale. The personal and the universal are stories closely weaved and inextricably bound...’
(Lucy Binnersley, The London Magazine)
The Heong Gallery at Downing College, University of Cambridge, is delighted to announce the UK presentation of The Court of Redonda – a major solo exhibition by Stephen Chambers RA, following its highly acclaimed unveiling as a Collateral Event of the 2017 Venice Biennale.
The Court of Redonda is a vast collective portrait of an imaginary court of maverick and singular individuals. The installation of 101 paintings articulates the role played by artists in envisaging a world not how it is, but how it could be. Featuring subjects drawn from different epochs and cultures and hung with reference to historic portrait collections, the court imagines a utopian society that celebrates the creative and idiosyncratic.
The Court of Redonda is inspired by a literary legend that has developed around a tiny, uninhabited island in the Caribbean Sea. Redonda was claimed in 1865 by a merchant trader who established an honorary monarchy that has been passed down to the present through a literary lineage. Collisions in fact and fiction about the island are described by the novelist Javier Marías, who was until recently a King of Redonda. Sparked by a ‘mental collaboration’ with Marías, who appointed many notable writers and artists to his imaginary court, Chambers has created a collective of individuals, where creativity is honoured over hereditary privilege.
Curated by Emma Hill, The Court of Redonda was made over a two-year period that coincided with Britain’s referendum about leaving the European Union and touches upon themes of identity, heredity and nationalism.
As Rod Mengham describes it: ‘The art of Stephen Chambers makes visible the patterns of meaning that activate the individual imagination from within and without; his patterns refer us to the stories uniting us as a group, even when they are stories of division and rivalry: stories about islands, and their relationship to bigger land masses....’
Stephen Chambers was elected to the Royal Academy of Art, in London, in 2005 and was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Downing College at the University of Cambridge, in 2016. The Court of Redonda was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and followed solo exhibitions at the Royal Academy, London (2012) and the Pera Museum, Istanbul (2014).
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by Emma Hill, Dr. Rod Mengham and Kathleen Soriano.
Says curator Emma Hill: ‘The Court of Redonda is woven from a story about an uninhabitable place, which writers and artists have envisioned. It is a work about the collective human spirit. The expression of the necessity and freedom of creative imagination, for art’s ability to reflect to us the moment we are living in and for an individual artist’s statement to carry the weight of this, is at the heart of images Chambers presents us with in the faces of his imaginary courtiers.’