Artist's Statement: Jacob van der Beugel on creating DNA profiles within a stately home

| 11 March 2014

Artist’s Statement: Jacob van der Beugel on a set of 659 textured, handmade, raised ceramic panels representing the DNA strand of ‘Everyman’, flanked by the personal DNA profiles of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire

A black and white photo of a male artist in profile
© Courtesy Chatsworth
“In the Everyman portrait, areas are highlighted by mirrors where the viewer or the visitor becomes part of the portrait.

It highlights the importance of visitors to Chatsworth. It is the central portrait – symbolic of our common humanity and of a more democratic age.

A photo of the inside of a house covered by an installation of gold panels and mirrors
The DNA profiles will stretch from floor to ceiling along one wall when the stately home reopens this week© Courtesy Chatsworth
The Everyman portrait was created from composite DNA sequences and is therefore ‘everyone’, anonymous and idealised.

The Duke's portrait includes a bird’s eye view of a walk he does when he is at home at Chatsworth.

It is a circular walk that starts at the house before returning through the same door. The glazed path can only be seen at certain angles and light conditions in the installation.

This is deliberate. I wanted elements of his persona to be elusive and ethereal, implying that a persona is in flux and hard to determine.

This concept applies to all of the portraits. I enjoyed the metaphor for wandering or navigating through your own DNA landscape; I feel this has all sorts of interesting conceptual connotations.

The Duchess's piece of music is John Rutter's A Gaelic Blessing. The glazed pieces are a visual abstraction of the first two lines of the piece.

They are "Deep peace of the running wave to you / Deep peace of the flowing air to you". Again the glazed pieces are elusive and will only read as one under certain conditions.

The idea is that the music beats and pulses through her DNA, becoming part of her physical fabric.

Lord Burlington wanted his family represented, and his siblings. Therefore, he, his wife and their three children are captured on one panel, as glazed inserts.

The children are three slightly different coloured inserts in one slot, none favoured over another. They are sandwiched between Lord and Lady Burlington. Surrounding this panel, Lady Jasmine and Lady Celina, his sisters, are also represented.

Lady Burlington wanted to represent the traditional stitching patterns of baby blankets. She has fond memories of sewing these with her Grandmother. This has been represented by using glazed inserts around the edges of her portrait.

The idea of weaving or threading a path through one's DNA is symbolic of forging one’s own destiny and intended as a beautiful metaphor for self-determination.”

  • Chatsworth reopens to the public on March 16 2014.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of the inside of a mansion where the walls are covered in raised gold panels
The profiles are reflected back into the installation by the ceramic, framed mirror panels on the opposite wall© Courtesy Chatsworth
A close-up photo of raised gold panels under dim lighting on the wall of an old house
Hand-assembled and mounted by van der Beugel, the ochre-coloured panels represent the culmination of nearly four years of work© Courtesy Chatsworth
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