How an idea takes form: the temple of Artemis at Ephesus I

Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.

Antipater of Sidon

One piece I am currently working on is inspired by one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, in Turkey. Rebuilt three times in its history, little of it now remains sadly.

The finished piece will combine a painting, laser engraving on Perspex sheet and in built lighting housed within a gilded frame that is a homage to a Kit Kat club frame.

In writing this post, I am attempting to unravel my own thought processes that led to the development of the idea. One of the main strands of my professional academic life is the teaching of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, and in particular how to generate ideas, and I am endlessly fascinated by the process of ideas developing, whether my own or my students’.

In the case of this work, the idea has had a slow genesis, starting with the desire to make a replica of a Kit Kat club frame, having earlier experimented with the Palladian style of picture frame with its distinctive eared corners and bold egg and dart mouldings.

 Here you can see a mirror that I made in this style in late 2011 I think. Having never hand carved wood before, but finding pre-carved mouldings difficult to source and prohibitively expensive at the time, I taught myself the basics of carving with hand gouges.

Whilst imperfect in its carving, the overall effect from afar is quite satisfactory, and works to integrate into the architectural scheme of the room, in a similar way to the William Kent frames that this was inspired by.
More recently I became aware of the Kit Kat club portraits, mainly on display at the National Portrait Gallery, which I managed to finally view in the flesh last year, when I visited a country house conference next door in the National Gallery.

Designed as a suite to fit the unusually proportioned portraits by Sir Godfrey Kneller of the club members, they are a magnificent group of frames.

Determined to make my own homage to this style, as a technical challenge as much as anything, I then began to think about what would be an appropriate painting to display in it. Of course most frames are made to accommodate their paintings, but in this case I have inverted that traditional process.

The egg and dart moulding, which is a strong feature of the vast majority of Palladian frames, is a type of enrichment found on the mouldings of Ionic temples, so I wanted to create a painting which had a symbolic relationship with its frame.

Some research into Ionic temples later, I discovered the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Having had an emotional connection with the goddess Artemis, later known as Diana, from my early days as an undergraduate art historian from the magnificent Titian Diana paintings in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh where I studied, the moment of insight occurred. Could I recreate Artemis in her Doric temple within the recreation of a frame, itself inspired by Doric architecture?

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