International Artist Follows the Thread to the Guildhall Gallery
Long established as a home for artists, Winchester is set to host a unique residency in 2007. The Guildhall Gallery is to be transformed in January into a working studio for an artist whose pioneering work last month won her the title of Textile Artist of the Year in the 2006 national Textile Awards. But the artist, whose pieces tour all over the world and are consequently rarely seen in Winchester, does not have far to come: Alice Kettle was born and still lives in the city.
Alice Kettle has been commissioned by Hampshire County Council to produce a textile which is 16.5m long by 3m high for the new discovery centre in Jewry Street. Just as the discovery centre has been growing on the site of the former lending library, Alice's magnificent piece has also been growing - so much so that it will soon be too big for the studio at her home. In order to complete the work she has been invited by Winchester City Council to transfer her studio into the Guildhall Gallery for six months so that local people and visitors alike can watch this extraordinary work take shape.
Winchester City Council's Head of Cultural Services Eloise Appleby said, "We have never hosted anything like this in the gallery before. When it is complete, this commission will be of international significance in terms of both the ground-breaking technology behind it and its sheer scale. We are sure that by offering people the opportunity to see it evolve and to meet the artist they will feel they are in some way participating in its creation."
The textile has been designed especially for the new foyer of the discovery centre. It will ensure a striking first impression for centre users, and also emphasise the expanded role of the centre as a centre for culture and the arts.
Hampshire County Council's Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage, Cllr Margaret Snaith, said, "Winchester Discovery Centre is a facility for the whole community which is why we wanted Alice Kettle, a local artist with an international reputation, to produce a piece that celebrates the local area. Our architects have really enjoyed working with her on the design and we are all looking forward to seeing this wonderful piece of work when it is completed in the discovery centre. In the meantime we are very grateful to Winchester City Council for providing a venue to us all to watch it grow."
Alice's inspiration is Winchester past, present and future. The colours she is using are based on the colours of the Winchester Bible which is one of the cathedral's most famous treasures. There are also references in the piece to strong local images such as Sound II by Antony Gormley which stands in the cathedral crypt and objects from the City Museum including a medieval wall painting and a roman head. She explained:
"This is an extraordinary commission and I am proud to have been asked to undertake such a significant and challenging artwork, especially since it is here in my home town. I want to make a piece for the people of Winchester, one which complements the wonderful transformed building. I hope the work will have a relevance and resonance to different age groups and experiences. I am very grateful for the ongoing support and interest I have already received."
Cllr Patricia Stallard, the city council's portfolio holder for culture, heritage and sport, commented, "This residency is a natural extension of our role as key partners in the discovery centre. This is a very rare opportunity to provide the means by which people can see an international artwork in the making, and we are delighted to have been able to do so. I hope this will be a taste of things to come in the city council's new exhibition space at the discovery centre when it opens next year."
Follow the Thread - Alice Kettle: Work in Progress will be featured in the gallery from mid-January to the end of July 2007. A programme of informal talks and educational activities around the residency is currently being devised, as well as a 'Kettle Trail' around the city to help visitors track down the sights and objects which are featured in the piece. Local people who are keen to learn more about Alice's work in the meantime can see an altar cloth which she created in the Holy Sepulchre Chapel at the cathedral (1994) and Man and Tree at the Stripe Theatre, University of Winchester. More details about the residency will be announced later in the autumn.
Winchester Discovery Centre, which will have books and reading at its heart, will provide Winchester residents with the most modern library service in the county. A multi-purpose hall, a new art gallery and the latest ICT equipment for access to information and learning will be some of the facilities to be included in the centre, providing users with a wealth of opportunities for learning and skills development.
For more information about Winchester Discovery Centre visit www.discoverycentres.co.uk