- Lindsey Mendick
- Dominic Watson
- Washington Old Hall
- Arts Council England
Washington Old Hall was one of six heritage sites selected by Arts&Heritage to take part in its Meeting Point 2018-2019 programme. WOH took part in a series of A&H training workshops and visits, to learn how to successfully deliver a contemporary art project at the museum. WOH then developed their own Artist’s Brief, and presented this to 60 artists from across the UK at a networking event. From Expressions of Interest, four artists were shortlisted to draw up a more detailed proposal from which WOH selected Lindsey Mendick and Dominic Watson for the commission.
Mendick and Watson named their commission Wassa, after the Anglo-Saxon family of Wass. Made mainly of papier-mâché and ceramics it took the form of a fantasy medieval feast attended by guests plucked from local folklore fiction and fact.
Dominic Watson explained:
“As you enter the Old Hall, which dates back to the 13th century, you’ll be faced with a grand banquet table laden with pies, jellies and drinks. Seated at the table are a group of colourful characters who all have a link with Washington Old Hall, over its hundreds of years of history.
“The installation is partly based on fact but it’s also steeped in stories and half-truths which have been passed down through generations and which we’ve learnt about as we’ve researched the Hall and the town of Washington.”
The most well-known person at the table is George Washington, the first president of the USA, whose ancestral home was at Washington Old Hall. Opposite him at the head of the table sits a sculpture of Fred Hill, the local historian and schoolmaster who played a key role in saving Washington Old Hall from ruin in the early 20th century and who penned his own book of local stories called Fact, Fiction and Folklore.
And on the table, amongst the feast of food and drink and set inside a jelly, is a sculpture of the Pickled Parson whose body, according to local legend, was preserved in salt by his wife in order to convince parishioners that he was still alive and they should continue to pay his family their annual tithes.
During the creation of the installation, Mendick and Watson worked with local residents and school pupils to learn more about the stories and legends people hear of while growing up in the town. “I think that the people we met will recognise their own input in parts of the artwork,” said Lindsey Mendick, “Talking to local residents really informed our work and gave us extra insight into the stories which are the most important to people here.”
Operations Manager at Washington Old Hall, Sarah Murray, said:
“We wanted to make a shift in the way we tell the story of Washington Old Hall and the people who are associated with it, and this artwork is not like anything people will have seen here before.”
Wassa was shown at Washington Old Hall from May – October 2021, and will reopen in Spring 2022.
At the heart of historic Washington village the picturesque stone manor house of Washington Old Hall and its gardens provide a tranquil oasis, reflecting gentry life following the turbulence of the English Civil War.
The building incorporates parts of the original medieval home of George Washington’s direct ancestors, and it is from here that the family took their surname of ‘Washington’.
Much used and loved by local people, including a hugely supportive Friends organisation.
Lindsey Mendick (b. 1987, London, UK) received an MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London (2017). She is the recipient of the Alexandra Reinhardt memorial award 2019 and was selected for Jerwood Survey 2019. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include: The Ex- Files, Castor Projects, London (2019); PROUDICK, Hannah Barry Gallery, London (2018); The Turnpike Pottery, The Turnpike Leigh; Perfectly Ripe, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2018); Jamie Fitzpatrick and Lindsey Mendick, Vitrine, Basel (2018); She’s Really Nice When You Get To Know Her, Visual Arts Center, Austin, Texas (2016); Girls (with Rebecca Gould) as part of Periclo, Oriel Wrexham, Wales (2015); Hot Flush, STCFTHOTS, Leeds (2015); Lindsey Mendick and Lynn Fulton, One Thoresby Street, Nottingham (2015).
Dominic Watson was born in Sunderland, UK 1986. He studied sculpture at Camberwell College of Art, London, and then an MFA at the Glasgow School of Art in 2014. Since graduating he was selected for New Contemporaries 2013 as well as the London Open 2015. Watson was a recipient of the John Kinross Fellowship, 2014, awarded by the Royal Scottish Academy and received a Fellowship in Contemporary Art Practice from the British School of Rome in 2017. His work is part of the RSA and the Ingram Collections. Watson currently lives and works in London, where co runs an artist led project space, PLAZAPLAZA in elephant and Castle.
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