Painting of Neptune's head: Camilla Wilson
In 2019, I was invited by the painter Camilla Wilson to create a piece of fiction to accompany her paintings for an exhibition about a series of mysterious 18th century stone heads, carved sea gods such as Neptune and Gallatea, at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich. I researched the history of Wren and Hawksmoor’s intentions for the building, and sought out information about the carver, Robert Jones of Stepney in the National Archives at Kew. I
Seeking an idiom to capture the heads' story, I sifted through a stack of 18th century chap books in the British Library, and was smitten by their rough hewn quality, the vibrant little yarns a gossipy playlets embellished with simple woodcut prints. My modern iteration of the chap book, The Heads' Lament, activates an imaginary WhatsApp conversation between the heads at another moment in our nation when we teetered on the cusp of profound instability. My daughters Yasmin and Rachel illustrated and laid it out, and the chap books were created on Risograph by Duplikat Press in Hackney.