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marionettes and kinetic art


Christopher Lettington

  I attended further education at the North East Essex School of Art, Colchester, studying a one year foundation course, and then went on to obtain a BA(Hons) Degree in Fine Art Painting at the Norwich School of Art. I graduated in 1987 and for two years I worked for the Royal Mail so that I could continue with my artwork in the afternoons without suffering financially.

 In 1989 I won the Birdman of Bognor competition for the best design (a converted bicycle with flapping wings), and then moved to Greece later that same year.
Within a few months of arriving in Athens found the opportunity to participate  in an exhibition at Ersis Gallery, where I presented a selection of marionettes. Over a period of several years, and at many group exhibitions at the Gallery Pleiades, I showed a wide range of sculpture, kinetic art, functional art, marionettes, and toys and games. I also studied traditional Greek orthodox icon painting.

During this period I also became self-employed as a freelance consultant for two leading architectural offices involved in interior cruise ship/ferry design and luxury residential design. I specialised in interior and exterior architectural makettes, perspective drawings and artists renderings, design presentations, marine furniture design, carpet design, construction drawings and detail drawings. I eventually became involved with furniture restoration and design/construction of handmade furniture to order.

 Living on the slopes of Mt. Pendeli just outside of aAthens also gave me the oppertunity to explore marble carving.

 In 2013 I returned to the UK, to Auchencairn in SW Scotland, and set up a business making traditional hand carved wooden marionettes and kinetic art/automata. This creative practice has been subsidised with specialist woodwork/carving projects, the main client being Buittle Castle with an interesting project creating an Orthodox chapel in one of the outbuildings, now relocated in the ground floor cellar of the tower.

 I have exhibited work, in more recent years, at the Yellow Door Gallery, Dumfries (where in 2017 I participated with two other artists in an exhibition entitled 'Ship of Fools') at the Nail Factory, Dalbeattie, and at the Old Mill Gallery, Palnakie, where I have a small installation 'Seven Seas' on permanent display.

 In 2019 my sister, Caroline McCatty, and I made a few copies of William Simmonds's marionettes in conjunction with Gloucester City Museum for their exhibition 'The Magical World of William Simmonds'.
 Unfortunately the original marionettes are now far too delicate to operate, the idea being to recreate examples to preform and display the life and movement captured in his work. Two other museums are now also interested in this ongoing project.

 During 2019 I was also invited to participate in Craft(ing) Conversations at the Court Barn Museum, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. I thoroughly enjoyed demonstrating and talking about my work for three days during the two week event. The enthusiasm I was met with was most rewarding.

 I am also a member of the Professional Artists PopUp shop in Kirkcudbright and participate in the annual Kirkcudbright Arts and Crafts Trail.



Christopher Lettington

  Although I studied Fine Art Painting at the Norwich School of Art, I devoted most of my time in the sculpture department exploring wood carving and bronze casting. I found these mediums better suited to expressing myself, since they followed on far more naturally from my way of drawing and sketching.

My main influences and inspirations derived from a deep fascination and appreciation of the beauty of the natural cycles of the days, seasons, moons, weather, etc., but ultimately from the transitions through birth, maturity, death and rebirth. I felt the need to relate my own interpretations of my immediate environment and personal experiences on the relative order and spontaneous rhythms of these basic natural energies, contrasted to my unwilling involvement and growing dependence on a fast emerging modern technological world.

 I identified with the apparently primitive yet highly stylised pre-Christian imagery of Europe that survived to become an integral, cryptic element of Romanesque architecture in the cathedrals and churches, redefined to co-exist 'harmoniously' within their new theological environment. This eventually led to the desire to animate the 'life' trapped within the wood and stone carvings, and after discovering a the book 'Hand and String Puppets' by Waldo S. Lanchester I found marionettes, kinetic art, and automatons as perfect mediums to incorporate my interests and skills.

 I really enjoy the challenge of developing the right controls to to make a string puppet move in a way necessary to portray its nature, often playing with the scale of features and the design of jointing to enhance the qualities of the character.

 I do eventually intend to progress more into puppet theatre performance, something beyond the variety acts I do with the troll and the dancing skeleton at local festivals, but there is always so much inspiration
 leading to so many exciting new projects, always so much more to achieve.