Festial is a self-directed, year-long residency which artist Imogen Ashwin has recently undertaken in a largely unrestored medieval church in the village of Wood Dalling, roughly three miles from her home in North Norfolk.
The Festial project is supported by an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts award.
This project takes its name from an influential medieval book - a runaway bestseller that went through multiple editions. John Mirk's Festial is an early fifteenth century collection of sermons for the major saints and festivals of the church year, for use by priests who were not learned or ambitious enough to find sermon materials for themselves. These sermons relied heavily upon legends, exempla and popular tales.
The timetable for the residency was structured around some of the most important religious feasts of the medieval year. As we are now running thirteen days ahead of medieval time reckoning, the date for each festival was calculated using the Julian calendar. Imogen spent time at the site seeing what happened inside and outside: a meditative process through which she explored the limits of how far she found herself able to share in, empathise with and 'inhabit' the medieval world. Each visit saw her engaged in regular tasks and seasonal activities inspired by - although not re-enacting - some of the rituals appropriate to the medieval festival in question. In the course of her research, Imogen has come to feel that many issues of primary importance to medieval people lie at the heart of what it means to be human. Laying out her findings for inspection by the viewer, she is attempting to capture something of their resonance and to elicit a response that might not be entirely comfortable for their 21st century descendents.
Ex Voto exhibition: A solo exhibition of work arising from the Festial residency took place at the Nicholson Gallery, Gresham's School, Holt, Norfolk between 26 September and 17 October 2008. To view installation images from the exhibition please click here, or on the Ex Voto icon to the left of this text.
8 November 2008: excerpt from Imogen's Festial blog ...
Now, the setting up and private view seem too distant to describe in detail, except to say that Trevor and I worked madly to paint the space, find and paint plinths, make labels, make a list of works, collect the Ex Voto edition of Kalender from the printer (on the morning of the PV - nothing like cutting it fine, is there?) and hanging everything using sticky pads, nails, pins, screws, hazard tape and goodness knows what else. I missed part of the PV as I was still typing and printing out the list of works. It was nice to stop for a glass of wine, and nice to see the family and friends who attended, but the House Music Evening did play havoc with overall visitor numbers.
So I thought I'd round things off by posting a few photographs each day for maybe a week or so, just for the record.
Follow the blog to learn more about Imogen's Festial adventures, issues raised by the project, the ups and downs of preparing for her first solo show, and what happened afterwards.
Visit the gallery to view work produced during the medieval year, and in the lead-up to Ex Voto.
Read Kalender - all twelve issues now online!
New: Ex Voto Extra - a special edition of Kalender which is also the catalogue for Ex Voto.
Email Imogen at imogenashwin(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk.
Imogen is a member, along with her husband Trevor Ashwin, of the World Tree creative partnership.
Festial is supported by Arts Council England and sponsored by Made in Cley, and takes place by kind permission of the churchwardens of St Andrew's Church, Wood Dalling.