Stephen Raw: Hour, 2009, cast bronze, 90mm. Cast by Niagara Falls Castings.
Limited edition - available only from BAMS website.
This is the first medal that Stephen Rawhas produced for the British Art Medal Society, BAMS ( http://www.bams.org.uk/medal-detail.php?medal=198 ).
It is the fruit of one of his collaborations with the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. In the past Raw has created artwork inspired by Duffy’s critically acclaimed collection Rapture. When the book was launched on London’s Southbank, Raw had an exhibition and produced an animated version of some of her poems. The collection went on to win the prestigious T.S. Eliot prize, and it is one of those poems, ‘Hour’, that this medal memorialises.
(The full poem is reproduced below by kind permission of the publishers, Picador.) ‘Poetry is so often rewarding’, says Raw, ‘when working with language that someone has taken time, care and consideration in creating’.
It is ‘language-made-visible’ that is at the core of all of Raw’s work. In this medal, as with his other pieces, there is a celebration of the imagery of letters. His personal approach to text eschews mechanical typographic forms and allows a freedom to celebrate those arbitrary shapes called ‘letters’. As the previous poet laureate Andrew Motion observed when he opened Raw’s exhibition Memory Language, ‘Stephen practises an art which is as old as the hills, and yet makes it seem brand new … It slows down language so that we can dwell on it and in it, but also accelerates its passage into our heads and imaginations.’
Recently Raw worked again withCarol Ann Duffy on her lyrics for a new work: The Manchester Carols (see two examples below). Currently he is working on a commission from the Royal Opera House to design a stone celebrating the four founders of the Royal Ballet. He is also well-known as the cartographer who redrew The Lord of the Rings maps, for which he worked closely with Christopher Tolkien. Raw’s maps were commissioned by HarperCollins and have been used in all copies of the book since 1993; he continues to sell a limited edition of them by permission of the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate. A set has recently been purchased by The British Library. His work has been exhibited widely, in Germany, the USA, Italy, Ireland, Pakistan and throughout the UK. Currently he sits on The Royal Mint Design Advisory Committee. Raw moved to Manchester from London in 1973 for an MA at Manchester Metropolitan University and has lived there since, save for two years lecturing at the National Arts School in Papua New Guinea.
Love’s time’s beggar, but even a single hour,
bright as a dropped coin, makes love rich.
We find an hour together, spend it not on flowers
or wine, but the whole of the summer sky and a grass ditch.
For thousands of seconds we kiss; your hair
like treasure on the ground; the Midas light
turning your limbs to gold. Time slows, for here
we are millionaires, backhanding the night
so nothing dark will end our shining hour,
no jewel hold a candle to the cuckoo spit
hung from the blade of grass at your ear,
no chandelier or spotlight see you better lit
than here. Now. Times hates love, wants love poor,
but love spins gold, gold, gold from straw.