Enwrought Light

Enwrought Light sculpture
“Enwrought Light” by Conrad Shawcross RA (2022)
Bedford Park
Bedford Park, the world’s first garden suburb, as painted by 19c Bedford Park resident, Manfred Trautschold

Welcome to Enwrought Light by Conrad Shawcross, honouring Irish poet WB Yeats and celebrating the unique spirit of Bedford Park, the pastoral suburb that nurtured his artistic genius, the crucible that transmuted his love of Irish landscape, legends and folklore into Nobel-Prize gold in 1923.

I’m going to take you on a stroll around some places in Bedford Park that fostered Yeats’s interest in drama, playing a part in creating the literary revival that had such an impact on twentieth century Ireland, and inspiring some of the world’s best-loved poems, many of them written here in Bedford Park.

Founded in the 1870s by Dublin-born property developer Jonathan Carr, the new neighbourhood attracted architects, actors, authors, artists, anarchists, poets, politicians, playwrights and publishers.

Raised in their creative midst, Dublin-born Yeats spent most of his early years with his family in London, much of it here in Bedford Park… where he engaged with all the arts, including drama, music, sculpture, painting, poetry and dance, as well as exploring scientific systems, spiritual teaching and political ideas.

Likewise Conrad Shawcross’s artwork crosses boundaries between the visual and other arts, and between science and nature, so that this Yeatsian “widening gyre” of Bedford Park ideas spinning out into the world also takes inspiration from the natural world: Yeats’s tree, of hammered gold and gold enamelling, a swirl of autumn leaves from trees in their autumn beauty, a flock of his white birds, maybe… and with just a hint of the spiritual, a flight of the angels, perhaps, to whom the nearby church is dedicated, the angels that appear in so many Yeats poems.

Enwrought Light takes its title from a poem which reflects the importance of the nineteenth-century Arts-&-Crafts movement to Bedford Park. Yeats’s sister Lily, for example, embroidered for William Morris’s daughter May, so the poem is partly inspired by the ideal of having artistic beauty, golden and silver light, in everyday life, and is partly a meditation on the desire to create beautiful things for those we love.

Hear Ciarán Hinds read the poem ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’:

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Conrad Shawcross
“Enwrought Light” artist, Conrad Shawcross RA
Drawing of W B Yeats
Charcoal drawing of WB Yeats by John Singer Sargent, 1908 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)