Vikings, Egyptians, Argonauts and the Nagging Pull of Realism

Posted by on April 20, 2012

So much goodness going on here it is hard to know where to start. It’s called “Beneath the Stride of Giants.”

This is a 36 foot long single-masted ship, not seaworthy, but epic nonetheless. It was displayed at Fabrica, a chapel-conversion-to-art-space in Bristol, England.

The artist, Brian Griffiths, collected used furniture that he deconstructed and re-imagined into this amazing creation. There are still bits that you can identify as part of an armoire, or bureau.

He uses carved wooden architectural details in place of the protective totems our shipbuilding ancestors might have added and, what appears to be the bottom of a coat-stand for an anchor.

It seems magical, like it could glide overland. When we use furniture it becomes imbibed with history, ours and its. I love the idea of the using these pieces with their own history to make a piece that replicates a historical object.

From the Fabrica description:

“alluding to a mythical past of Vikings, the Egyptians, the Argonauts, Griffiths’ carefully crafted combination of cupboard doors, veneered wardrobes and odd wooden artifacts maintains what he describes as the ‘nagging pull of realism’.”

I keep repeating that: “the nagging pull of realism.” We strive to ‘be real’ to strip back the layers of artifice. Is being ‘real’ a worthy goal? Probably. Most of the time. But not always.


Perhaps because it was made and displayed in England, this ship reminds me most of Sutton Hoo. I remember stumbling around the British Museum on fall break, hearing the story of Sutton Hoo for the first time. The fact that stuck with me most was the buried treasure (or treasure trove) laws in England (before 1996). If something was hidden with the intention that the hider would be back for it, the recovered treasure belongs to The Crown. However, if it was buried without the intention to recover it, it is the property of the landowner. Edith Pretty was the landowner in this case, and she gave the treasure to the British Museum as a gift to the nation, so that her discovery could be shared by everyone. Just a fun fact for your Friday afternoon.


photos from the Fabrica website by Philip Carr

Comments are closed.