Irene Gunston (b. 1960) is a sculptor / bronze-caster / gardener of forty years’ experience. She formerly ran the foundry at the Royal College of Art and is now based in south Wales. She has been a member of BAMS for over twenty-five years.
The artist writes: ‘Ovid’s Metamorphoses has long been a source for artists. In the final book Ovid has a long speech delivered by Pythagoras to King Numa Pompilius, in which he states: ‘Nothing keeps its own appearance. Nature, renewer of things, / Prepares new shapes from other shapes: / Believe me, nothing in this whole world perishes, / But only varies and changes its face.’ This condition is well-known to the gardener (who may be seen as a cypher for the artist), continuously deciding whether to work with or against greater forces, but ultimately being aware that ‘nature’ is the master of all. As seen on the obverse, this figure will ultimately return to the earth, the matter from which this medal was formed and from which new forms will later be created.
‘The reverse image is based on plate XLV of book 2 of the Collection of emblemes, ancient and moderne put together by the English poet, pamphleteer and satirist George Wither (1588-1667): ‘Things, to their best perfection come, Not all at once; but, some and some – POCO A POCO’. Wither was employed by the London publisher Henry Taunton to write English verses to expound on the allegorical plates made by Gabriel Rollenhagen and Crispin van Passe some twenty years earlier. Published in 1635, it coincided with another English book of emblems by Francis Quarles.’