The Bell Tower Residency 2014

The inaugural Ludlow Open Residency was held in September 2014 in the Bell Tower of St Leonard’s Church in Yarpole, Herefordshire.

St Leonard’s is one of the few churches in the country with a separate bell tower and recent dendrochronological dating has established that it is the oldest in the county.  The 200 year old oak tress used in its construction were felled during the winter of 1195/96.

Yarpole is a thriving rural location with a fascinating history.  Seven miles south of Ludlow, I felt it to be the ideal venue for our first artist residency.

Artists selected for this residency should live or work in the region and be at a stage in their career when a short residency will further their practice, and have an interest in making work on the ‘material history and contemporary usage of St Leonard’s church and bell tower’.  As well as worship, these buildings now serve as a community hub, housing a shop, post office, cafe and venue space.  The selected artist must also leave one piece of work from their residency, as a legacy for the Yarpole community.

Our 2014 resident artist was Andrea McLean.  Andrea was born in Wales and studied at Falmouth School of Art, The Slade and the British School at Rome.  Her painting ‘A Contemporary Mappa Mundi’ is on display at The British Library as part of their permanent collection and Andrea is a featured artist in Tess Jaray’s book ‘Paintings: Mysteries and Confessions’.  Andrea lives and works in Ledbury, Herefordshire.  Andrea’s work was selected for the 2012 Ludlow Open.

Andrea has a strong interest in ancient religious buildings and also in ancient trees, and with her interest in medieval and religious themes she seemed a perfect choice for our inaugural Bell Tower Residency.  Andrea creates shapes and forms, scratched delicately onto a surface, and follows the thread both across and below this surface, representing multiple objects, landscapes and perspectives all at once, creating a mythical view of her subject.  The surface teems with shapes, forms and suggestions of things that may be from another world, and the spatial structure she uses is reminiscent of medieval maps and embroideries.

For the residency Andrea painted one of her large mandala paintings, the shape and scale echoing the bell wheel up in the tower.  Her large paintings tend toward chronicles, and she painted fragments of objects, bringing an energy to everything she saw.  The outcome feels like a re-ordering, mixing the past and the present together in an almost pliable prespective.  Andrea worked for ten days in the church, bell tower and grounds, making a circular mapping painting which celebrates this historic building and the way it is now used.

In the spring of 2015 Andrea returned to Yarpole to give a talk on her art practice, the residency and the experience of making the mandala. Four hundred people visited Andrea during the residency, and forty five returned to hear her talk and to view the final work and sketch books.

You can visit http://www.andrea-mclean.co.uk for for further information on Andrea and her work.