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Tales and Temporality: An Artist’s Response to St Nicholas Priory

Nestled between some of Exeter’s busiest streets, the building is a tranquil haven. Its very fabric exudes character, weathered and worn by the elements and the many centuries to which it has borne witness. Countless species of moss and lichen have colonised the stonework, staking nature’s claim and creating an irresistible myriad of colour, pattern, and texture. The stones speak; each mark tells a story, and the incisions of the masons’ tools and the mysterious ‘witches’ runes’ spark the imagination, as one wonders who made the marks, and what lives they might have lived.

The priory boasts a fascinating history, and it is the passing of time, and the tales told by its very stones, that is the central to my artistic response. I began by taking crayon and pencil rubbings of the markings and macro photographs of the plants and processes that continue to shape the building. Using these, I am now experimenting with translating the colours and textures into paint, using sponges and palette knives to reflect the moss and masons’ marks respectively. I hope to produce a series that captures something of the uniqueness of the priory and the stories it tells. By focusing on the visual manifestations of the passing of time, I hope to pay tribute to the enduring nature of the building, whilst inviting viewers and visitors to look more closely at the often-overlooked fabric of this historic, serene space.

I’m Sarah Spencer, local artist and art historian, and I’m privileged to be responding to the unique building of St Nicholas Priory- a historic, hidden gem at the heart of Exeter.

Follow my progress on Instagram @sarah_spencers_artwork and on twitter @lightbearlane

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