It was one of the first bright days of the year, blue sky and incredibly welcome sunshine. The drive along the narrow, muddy roads was quite misty and we feared getting lost in the warren of high hedged lanes that distinctly shape this area of Somerset. Brazenly we had left the detailed directions at home and had decided to rely on our memory and natural inbuilt 'navigation system'. We had visited Westcott Farm before, many years ago, when the metal cowsheds and rustic barns were transformed into galleries for the then young 10 Parishes Festival. On that occasion we were presented with an installation of a rather unconventional and inedible feast. There is also a vague memory of a rusty metal chain and large hook suspending 'something' that was drip, drip, dripping 'blood', all in the name of art of course, and still today there are more permanent reminders of past open studios at the farm.
SAW artist, Lyn Mowat and her husband, are keen to make Westcott Farm an artistic hub for this year's forthcoming art weeks and would like to see the landscape and outbuildings filled with creativity. The reason for our visit was to attend one of three art walks that Lyn had organised, inviting fellow West Somerset SAW members, particularly those whose practise takes inspiration from the landscape. Did the farm have the potential to be reflected in their work and be their chosen venue for 2013? If artists were enthused by the day's walk they could then select to work as an individual or in a group. The format at present is loose so as not to restrict the creative process and any artistic decision making.
Walking with others who 'look' with a design eye is a reassuring pleasure, you are not alone in gaining visual joy in seeing shape, form, texture and pattern in the terrain, foliage and shadows that you encounter. We all got quite captivated by a repetitive line of fleece that had snagged along a particularly long stretch of barbed wire fencing; the way it caught the sunlight filtered by the mist was quite alluring.
The mist cleared and we returned in glorious, stark, winter sunshine. On route Lyn had made use of the extra manpower to hand and we helped herd the pregnant ewes to a field closer to the main house; she joked that this was the true reason for our visit. Once back to the yard we took it in turns to hose down our oh, so muddy boots and headed inside where there was hot soup waiting and a chance to discuss any initial ideas and possibilities.
There are a surprising amount of out buildings at Westcott Farm, that with very little imagination, a good sweep and a fresh lick of whitewash will make fantastic exhibition spaces. Most have lighting, one even has a 'stage' with large picture windows letting in heaps of natural light. There are bone shaped beams awaiting hanging installations and perhaps for the more edgy, urban artist there is of course the huge cattle sheds with their distinctive metal walls and bars - the cows of course will be out summer grazing.
A third walk is planned for early March and soon Lyn will know who is keen to be part of Westcott 2013. Those that do decide to embrace this opportunity are free to visit the farm throughout the spring and summer months to sketch, paint, photograph, sculpt and create to their hearts content. Do contact Lyn if you too would like to take part, there may still be room, however the venue is limited to ten artists exhibiting.
I look forward to returning in the Autumn to see how this huge canvas of a farm will be transformed, and of course those winding lanes will not prove a puzzle as the distinctive yellow SAW signs will lead you directly to your art adventure.