Strange Pilgrimage: Elements of a Narrative

Using the four medieval elements to frame new work, Leah Fusco (Water), Mireille Fauchon (Air), Emily Mitchell (Earth) and Matthew Richardson (Fire) explore different elements of 'The Canterbury Tales’ written by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1386.

The 'The Canterbury Tales’ takes the form of a collection of short stories told by a group of pilgrims to each other as they travel to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. This project originated in a car journey along the ‘Pilgrims Way’ - the route that Chaucer’s pilgrims travelled. Through shared conversation, encounters, observations and new actions, a re-casting of Chaucer’s narrative evolved. Chaucer’s stories are morality tales, often satirical and with acid wit, they are told by and about everyday ‘characters’. The stories (and fragments of stories) have been ordered and re-ordered since Chaucer’s death and it is the collective, yet fragmentary nature of the tales - a coming together of disparate elements - that the work in this project develops further.

The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, Canterbury, 2017




The Arsonist’s Tale
Matthew Richardson

The origins of this work began with the burning of a paperback copy of Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ and collecting and examining what fragments remained. Using fire as an ‘editor’, brought an element of chance to the process and provided the raw material from which a new narrative and series of works emerged and became ‘The Arsonist’s Tale’.

Chaucer uses fire as metaphor to describe character traits - from nurturing and passionate to destructive and vengeful. These characterisations are often stereotypes, seemingly describing an ‘everyman’ or ‘everywoman’. Canterbury Cathedral burnt in 1174 and again in 1872. Was this an act of man, woman, god or chance?

The work includes two models, one which was burnt and one which remains pristine. The models are  a combination of the plans from a medieval house/workshop and a ‘working’ firebox, where string is spun around wooden spindles to create fire. Displayed in a museum context, these objects or models’ become ambiguous.  Works created as part of  ‘The Arsonist’s Tale’ also includes collages on books and record sleeves and a new publication.















Publication, ‘The Arsonist’s Tale’. Riso printed in an edition of 20 by Notewell Press. 
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Matthew Richardson Artist + Illustrator
© Matthew Richardson 2021