Artists welcome visitors behind the scenes

Artists all over Somerset are welcoming visitors into their studios and exhibition spaces. 

Somerset Art Weeks is proving very successful, with more than 300 artists hosting exhibitions and events in loft spaces, garden studios, tithe barns, stables, museums, churches, farms, libraries and a prison.

At Somerset Rural Life Museum, visitors are fascinated to see Jacky Oliver’s huge kinetic sculpture which draws inspiration from the artist’s research into the ways horses have been central to Somerset’s rural heritage. Using the idea of horses’ blinkers, the artist has created the pieces of the sculpture from leather, steel, and brass etched with words and drawings from archives.

Artist Jane Mowat’s 8-metre-long installation at Muchelney Church runs from the font and down the church nave. Jane is one of many artists who have responded to the theme of ‘Sanctuary’. She created the embroidery for the church in Muchelney. The church was the only place in the area where people could be protected from flooding, it is also a place where people come together to pray.

Reflecting on global climate change, Jane has created images of native plants over the seasons, exploring above and below the surface of the water of the River Parrett. The work flows out of the font, symbolising the sanctity of water. On Saturday 8 October, there will be a Singing with Water workshop exploring water as a giver of life, and its significance in climate change.

Artists have interpreted the theme of Sanctuary in many different ways, such as with paintings of the natural world, mindful mark making and a poetic sanctuary. Poet Katrina Naomi and eco-writer Sara Hudston are responding to the natural heritage of Alfoxton Park with its links to Wordsworth and Coleridge as the birthplace of English Romanticism.  

Somerset Art Weeks Co-ordinator Paul Newman said:
“We’re delighted to see venues receiving lots of visitors, and hear that audiences are enjoying the range of Group Exhibitions, Curated Shows and SAW Commissions this year. Sanctuary seems to be a popular theme and along with the many events featuring in Somerset Art Weeks, there is still much to enjoy before the event finishes on 9th October.”

Painter Tess Armitage and ceramicist Jenny Sutton-Kirby are exhibiting their work in Tess’s garden studio which she’s made into a gallery for the event. They’ve welcomed lots of visitors so far, many of whom have made purchases ranging from a small decorated jug to a large landscape painting.

Tess said:
“It’s been a lovely event so far, and I’m delighted with how it’s going. I’ve been taking part for 20 years, so I’ve established a following. I’ve welcomed back regular visitors as well as meeting new people. Some come just to have a look, and others come with the idea of buying something. One new client bought three large paintings, so that was exciting.”

Jenny said:
“It’s the first time I’ve taken part, and we’ve welcomed all sorts of people into the studio. Some visitors are well prepared for a day out with a list of venues, a route plotted out on the map and a planned lunch stop, while others make a special trip to one destination. There have been visitors of all ages from toddlers to octogenarians. We were worried that things might be rather dampened this year with everyone’s financial worries but that hasn’t been the case – Tess and I have almost sold out!”

Six artists have taken over C-Wing at Shepton Mallet Prison to create immersive and interactive artworksusing a variety of artforms and techniques, including creative computer coding, an installation exploring light and colour, painting and mark making as a practice of mindfulness, exploring conversations on postcolonial ideas of the Black British experience in the UK, and participatory installations considering themes of wellbeing. There are a number of events associated with the exhibition, including Creative Coding for Beginners on Saturday 8 October.

A full event programme includes talks, walks and workshops focussing on making art, wellbeing and a return to nature. Over the weekend, there are Family Friendly activities for families of all shapes and sizes, encouraging everyone to join in.

Most events run until Sunday 9 October. The Poetic Sanctuary at Alfoxton Park is open Oct 6-8. Details of all opening days and times are available in the Guide online and more information is available on the Somerset Art Weeks website. There is also an app to highlight venues and give directions. 

Published by Gillian Taylor PR

Media relations, marketing, audience development, events and content creation for artists, cultural and heritage organisations.