One of our new Heritage Lottery Fund funded posts is an Artist in Residence, who will join us each summer for three years to put on new activities for a range of audiences. Last month, we were delighted to welcome the first of the three artists, Ella West, who put on creative workshops and drop in sessions over the summer holidays. She explains more about her art, and what it was like to work in St Albans Cathedral.

Working in collaboration with St Albans Cathedral this August has given me an excellent opportunity to deepen my art practice through community engagement, dialogue and the sharing of ideas. It’s impossible to escape the overwhelming sense of time bounded into the very walls of the Cathedral, making it an inspiring place to work.

In my work, I study rocks to gain perspective on our environment, landscape and the material of the earth. They allow me to grab onto concepts of existing in a complex and transitional world through seeing and holding them. From humbly small stones to mammoth land formations, rocks physically embed and squash time, light and space.

In my prints and paintings, I create biomorphic forms that illuminate and replicate the power of nature. My work grows organically through the process of making. I begin with an image/stone/colour palette and reproduce them into abstracted shapes, working to build interactions between the forms. Exploration during recent years has expanded my practice and allowed me to introduce inquisitive experimentation in a variety of mediums including video, photography and sculpture.

The artist residency at St Albans Cathedral has been a fascinating project in many ways. Learning about the history of the site sparked immediate curiosities for me as an artist. Set with the task of exploring the hundreds of years of graffiti – carved by local parishioners and visitors alike – I wanted to find a way to honour the presence of the various communities of today. Delivering introductory screen-printing workshops enabled different groups of people to create contemporary images as a way of reinterpreting the marks of the past.

Through inviting people to take part in marking their mark onto the surface of six wax sculptures, I aimed to provide a surface in which visitors of all ages and backgrounds could experiment with the message they would leave behind. Within the wax tablets and on the walls of the cathedral, it is interesting to observe the variety of names, drawings and moments etched on the surface – I wanted the tablets to work in harmony with the space. The very idea that humanity’s desire to be remembered is as old as time itself felt important. We will continue to create monuments to ourselves out of stone.

Ella’s wax sculptures, The Cerae Tablets, are on display in the Cathedral until Sunday 30th September. To find out more, please visit https://www.stalbanscathedral.org/whatson/exhibitions

For more information about Ella’s work, please visit www.ellaweststudio.com

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