“The idea of
walking through your own DNA landscape I thought was a lovely metaphor”

Jacob van der Beugel

The North Sketch Sequence is a ground-breaking fusion of science and
architecture created by ceramist Jacob van der Beugel. The installation in
Chatsworth House made out of ceramic, glass, mirrors and steel speaks to
the notion of identity. It’s a family portrait, but not like you’ve ever seen before.

Historically, inheritance is traced through the paternal line while DNA is
passed on through the maternal line. To provide an interesting counterpoint
on this topic, Jacob embedded 650 handmade ceramic panels in the 20-metre
long gallery depicting the DNA of The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and
their son and daughter-in- law, Lord and Lady Burlington. The ceramic blocks,
organised into four columns represent the DNA of all four sitters. A fifth central
portrait has been created that depicts ‘Everyman’. This contains miniature
mirrors that reflect the faces of the viewing public, emphasising the
importance of visitors to Chatsworth in a more democratic era. “The idea of
walking through your own DNA landscape I thought was a lovely metaphor,”
Jacob said in an interview for Crafts Council. A quirky and original
interpretation of the tradition to hang family portraits on the walls.

C6000 tiles cut and torn
apart by hand. 

The smaller clay components, with its rusty surfaces, also remind us that
scientific information can be brought in a more humane manner. Cut and torn
apart by hand, each of the 6000 tiles reveals a sandy structure in a different
way making every single one unique. This site specific commission that took
four years to make addresses the complexity of someone’s identity by
pointing out these multiple layers of meaning.

Carefully composed and in a grainy camel colour palette, the installation
became an interplay of geometric forms with an earthy feel. Jacob is a brilliant
ceramic artist and truly took this project to extraordinary heights.

Text: Marije Popping
Photography: Jacob van der Beugel