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A fine art exhibition where contemporary artists and makers contemplate modern religion and today's world within the ancient surroundings of The Bishop's Palace in Wells – inspired

Curated by Rebecca Barnard and Heather Wallace of the Heritage Courtyard Gallery and Studios, RE-FORMATION showcases over 20 leading West Country artists and makers – painters, ceramacists, installation artists, sculptors and more – inspired by the historic Bishop’s Palace in Wells.  The result is thought-provoking, intriguing and hugely enjoyable.

The exhibition takes place in The Bishop’s Palace, in the Palace grounds and continues in the Heritage Courtyard Gallery. Here’s a taster…

The Cubist Nature of Truth 2019 by Kate Wilson, on a table in the Long Gallery, could be a game of chess waiting to be played or a futuristic dining service.  The work reflects men to women ratio in the Church of England clergy. At first, it seems there are more men than women; take a closer look and amongst the younger age group, the women outnumber the men.

The Cubist Nature of Truth 2019, Kate Wilson. Cast vitrified porcelain and copper wire. The artist can cast this in groups of 3: small group £180; large group £220

Charlotte Humpston’s Figures I, II and III – three bodies wrapped in gold survival blankets, a reminder of displaced people around the world – send a shiver down the spine.

Figures I, II and III, Charlotte Humpston. Cotton, wool, string and survival blankets. £1,200.

David Kemp’s ornate crucifixes and religious icons on the wall either side of the door in the photo above, are wittily made from junk picked up at boot fairs and the like, and re-presented as museum pieces.

You could be looking out of the Palace windows into the gardens with Rod Walker’s Weeping Garden (top);  Pennie Elfick was inspired by the geometric shapes and spaces to create her Cubiform 7 sculpture (below).

Top: Weeping Garden, Rod Walker, Oil and charcoal on canvas. £6,750. Bottom: Cubiform 7, Pennie Elfick. Acrylic on wood. £450.

Excavating Babel by Tina Hill is a spiral tower created from over 2,300 coverless books. A monument to books and the stories they tell, you can walk into the installation – a bit being staircase in an medieval turret – with the smell of old paper in your nostrils.

The Intersection of Dreams by Terry Flaxton RWA, FRSA, a digital moving image  re-staging Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross, is mesmerising and unsettling.  Through a slow and constantly changing series of images, the artist’s daughter and her friends on the cross look down at the world, knowing the older generation have allowed to rich and powerful to pillage it; either side, different youthful faces look us in the eye.

Also unnerving is Martin Cody’s Bishop Ralph Translated, an installation using animated stills of the graffiti-covered effigy of Bishop Ralph of Shewsbury in Wells Cathedral overlaid with a computerised voice track.

On the surface, an oil painting by Heather Wallace inspired by the Wells springs, looks more conventional. It’s a beautiful waterside scene but the baby could be a fallen angel or a discarded plastic doll. Life is fragile.

Plastic Angel, Heather Wallace. Oil on canvas. £1,400.

The exhibition extends into the Palace grounds, with sculpture and installations.

Re-sighted, Sara Parsons. Metal bamboo canes, cotton with plaster and painted. £1,025.

Fiona Campbell’s Crown of Thorns, inspired by the dragons which appear throughout the Bishop’s Palace,  the crossed swords of its coat of arms, the Bishop’s crown and the Gothic architecture and materials reformed, re-purposed, transformed.

Crown of Thorns, Fiona Campbell. Recycled steel, repurposed hand woven canopy, recycled copper wire, twine, plastic netting, glass. £8,000.

If you like what you see and want to take it home, you probably can, as most of the work is for sale, with prices starting from £150 up to £8,000.

What else is on

A selection of the artists talk about their work at ‘An evening at Re-formation with friends and Associates of SAW’  with drinks, canapes and a walk around the Palace gardens. Thurs 19 Sept, 6.30pm.

Concert of early and mystical sonatas by Jenny Bliss and Yair Avidor of the Amphion Consort, with drinks and canapes on Fri 4 Oct, 7pm in the Undercroft.  More info and tickets.


The exhibition at The Bishop’s Palace (included with an entrance ticket to the Palace) and the Heritage Courtyard Gallery and Studios runs until Sun 6 Oct.


The Bishop’s Palace, Wells BA5 2PD and the Heritage Courtyard Gallery and Studios, 6 Heritage Courtyard, Sadler Street, Wells BA5 2RR.




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