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Wells Art Contemporary 2022

WAC is back! The annual international open art competition, with 120 artworks and 29 site-specific installations, is showing at Wells Cathedral.

There’s something so soothing about strolling around an art exhibition, don’t you think? Letting the artworks wash over you, absorbing what you see; sometimes beautiful, sometimes quirky; often thought-provoking. And when it’s in the serene surroundings of the beautiful and historic Wells Cathedral, it’s almost a mindfulness experience.

I’m talking about the annual international open art competition, Wells Art Contemporary (WAC), on at Wells Cathedral from Sat 30 July to Sun 28 August. Some 3,200 artworks were submitted by 1,600 artists from 47 countries (impressive). The judges have drawn up their shortlist of 120 pieces by 111 artists, working in mediums ranging from painting to sculpture. Alongside, there are 29 site-specific installations, reflecting the architecture, the space and the spirituality of the Cathedral. Entry to the exhibition is free. All the artworks are for sale, though to be fair, most of them don’t come cheap. Ahead of the judges’ decisions (watch this space), here’s a taster of the show.

Katie Surridge used wording from text messages she received from people on an online dating app on her steel and recycled copper Mates Gates.

Mates Gates by Katie Surridge, £4,500

Emma Moxey’s graphic Rock of Ages, inspired by plastic shards and polystyrene flotsam found on beach walks, is ironic. It’s not a rock and we don’t have ages.

Rock of Ages by Emma Moxey, £2,800

Wire and paper pulp recreate a large, delicate, elegantly simple wasp’s nest; a Safe Haven by Jane Jobling echoes the mathematics of the architecture of the Cathedral. It almost looks as if it’s made from the same stone.

Safe Haven by Jane Jobling, £3,000

A selection of weird and wonderful artefacts ‘recovered from the subconscious’ and covered with mysterious symbols. What does it all mean? According to the artist Alex Wilmoth, it’s about how we ‘attach meaning and decipher iconography leading us to manufacture absurd narratives that reflect the bizarre nature of reality.’ I’ll leave you to work that one out. 

A Gentleman’s Club by Alex Wilmoth, £10,000

Over-sized glass marbles in St Martin’s Chapel reflect the sacred orb held by Jesus in the chapel’s painted relief. At once playful yet serious, graceful yet grave, To See the World in a Grain of Sand by Jane Taylor Weekes, deals with the paradoxes within human nature.

To See the World in a Grain of Sand by Jane Taylor Weekes., £75 per orb

Learnt a new word with the title of this print: Ash tree obligate 6 – Euzophera pinguis, by Alessandra Alexandroff. The little moth is ‘obligate’ – relies totally – on ash trees, which commonly grow on the Mendip Hills and are now suffering greatly from ash dieback.

Ash tree obligate 6 by Alessandra Alexandroff. £580

Wells Five Miles by Nessie Ramm is a life-size copy of a real sign on the roundabout near Mendip Community Hospital. Painted in oils with the plants that grow there, it celebrates the beauty of road verges and their ecological value as corridors connecting habitats. Maybe ancient pilgrims to Wells Cathedral saw the same plants?

Wells Five Miles by Nessie Ramm, £3,400

Georgia Peskett was inspired to paint Travel Agent after taking photographs through a bus window in the pouring rain. She’s captured brilliantly the raindrops on the window, the blurriness of a grey rainy day and the vibrant promise of a holiday in sunnier climes.

Travel Agent by Georgia Peskett, £4,000

This piece is intriguing. Every night for 384 nights, and in sync with each night’s phase of the moon, Ruth Broadway stitched an individual ‘moon’ using dyed pocket handkerchief squares and circles of cotton fabric with Indian ink, to create By the Light of the Moon.

By the Light of the Moon by Ruth Broadway, £8,000

The exhibition continues out into the Camery gardens, where giant, painted, sculptural English flowers, as depicted in the Cathedral’s carvings, stained glass windows and embroidery, highlight the gardens as a place for quiet contemplation. If Not Now, When? by Jenna Fox encourages visitors to ‘take the time to smell the roses.

If Not Now, When? by Jenna Fox. £500 per flower.

While you’re there, don’t forget to see Antony Gormley’s DOUBT, installed on the Cathedral’s West front until February 2023.

Wells Art Contemporary (WAC), Wells Cathedral from Sat 30 July to Sun 28 August. Free entry.

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