Sunday, 26 August 2018

Plato's Lair by Peter Hanmer at Cheeseburn

Plato's Lair by Peter Hanmer is one of the delights currently being exhibited at Cheeseburn, Northumberland. Peter won the Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor of The Year award 2017 with his proposal for Plato's Lair. Housed in the potting shed in the beautiful grounds of Cheeseburn Grange House and Gardens. The work is heavily influenced by Plato’s story The Allegory of the Cave featured in Plato’s seminal work The Republic.

"Plato asks us to imagine prisoners inside a cave, their legs and necks shackled. They can only look at the wall in front of them where projected images are made by puppets and the objects behind them; they can't see these because they cannot turn around, the shadows on the wall are the prisoners only reality.

A prisoner who manages to escape from his chains discovers that it is the puppets and fire that are casting the shadows and that their reality is an illusion. Once out of the cave the prisoners eyes adjust to the sunlight and see reality for what it really is, including plants, animals, the sky and most importantly the sun, which for Plato represents enlightenment. The now free prisoner returns to the Cave to tell his fellow prisoners what he has sees."

There are similarities when viewing the work at Cheeseburn. One passes through the fabric barrier into a dark space. Steps down lead to the grotto-like cavern populated with 30-40 little figures. As your eyes slowly begin to adapt to the lighting conditions, more details are revealed; non-human characters with beaks are engaged in a multitude of activities.

Peter has incorporated some of the objects found within the shed into the narrative that he constructs. For example, an ancient lawnmower is used to project images onto a screen.

The figures belong in the potting shed, it is their world, and we are invited into it.

The installation is open to the public at the August Bank holiday weekend (25th, 26th, 27th August) and the first weekend in September (1st and 2nd September). Opening times are 11am-4pm. For more information visit

All images courtesy of Paul Stephenson

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