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WASSA - A feast of folklore, fiction and fact at Washington Old Hall

Fictional guests at the feast of WASSA, an art exhibition at Washington Old Hall by Lindsey Mendick and Dominic Watson
Fictional guests at the feast of WASSA | © Jonathan Turner

The Great Hall is the site of a contemporary art installation bringing together a cast of historical and mythical characters associated with the building and its local area, including George Washington, the first president of the United States of America.

WASSA contemporary art exhibition

Named after the Anglo-Saxon family of Wass, it was created by artists Lindsey Mendick and Dominic Watson. Made mainly of papier-mâché and ceramics it takes the form of a fantasy medieval feast attended by guests plucked from local folklore, fiction and fact.

Guests of the feast

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.

A pickled parson

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.

Gathering stories and legends

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 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.’

WASSA is part of Meeting Point, a project led by contemporary art specialists Arts & Heritage WASSA will run until October 2022.

Leading UK and international artists have partnered with six museums in Yorkshire, the North West and the North East, to produce new artworks inspired by the museums and their collections.

Funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund, Meeting Point presents artworks in unexpected places and supports small and medium scale museums to commission artists, who will create a piece of work in response to the venue.

Join the conversation on social media by using #MeetingPoint

‘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.’

- Dominic Watson, artist

More about the artists

Lindsey Mendick

Lindsey’s Mendick’s artistic talents have no limits. Eye-catching and provocative, Mendick’s use of ceramics and clay to tell a story have been described as grotesque and unruly.

By blending personal experiences and humour with the intent to challenge society’s perceptions, her bright and brash pieces provoke thought and discussion.

Winner of awards

The recipient of the Alexandra Reinhardt memorial award 2019 and selected for Jerwood Survey 2019, Lindsey was born in London in 1987 and went on to receive an MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art.

When asked about some of the motifs in Lindsey’s work and what they represent by ArtMaze Magazine, she replied:

‘I pick out events and moments from my personal history that I feel have had a considerable impact on me and my sensibility…

My practice embraces the subjects and moments that are deemed to be low culture, interweaving their iconography and ebullience with high culture methods of construction.’

artists Lindsey Mendick and Dominic Watson standing in front of the WASSA exhibition. Seated at the table are a group of colourful characters from folklore, fiction and fact. Featuring a sculpture of Fred Hill, the local historian and schoolmaster who played a key role in saving Washington Old Hall from ruin and president George Washington, who’s ancestors once lived here.
Artists Lindsey Mendick and Dominic Watson in front of the WASSA exhibition | © Jonathan Turner

Dominic Watson

While many artists present a piece of art and step back, Dominic Watson is the art. Working with film and installation to tell a story it’s not unusual to find that Watson himself is the main feature.

When asked about some of his processes for his well-known pieces by artist Lindsey Mendick in 2016, Dominic said:

‘I think I actively became interested in the idea of duplicating myself after making Studio Based Practice. In an attempt to move the work forward away from a reliance on using other artworks, I tried to become really objective about myself, view the performer in the video as someone else.

‘I really wanted make a distinction between me the person, me the artist and me the performer. I began to think about the performer as a material and a subject, the same way you might think about a readymade.’

Born in Sunderland in 1986, Dominic Watson studied sculpture at Camberwell College of Art, London, and then an MFA at the Glasgow School of Art in 2014. Since graduating, he has been selected for New Contemporaries 2013 as well as the London Open 2015.

Awards won

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.

Fictional guests at the feast of WASSA, an art exhibition at Washington Old Hall by Lindsey Mendick and Dominic Watson

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