Exhibition: The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral

The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral

by OuseLife Artists

6th April – 2nd May 2016

The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral 2

A new exhibition ‘The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral’ opened at the Cathedral on Wednesday 6th April 2016. Featuring major works by nineteen members of the OuseLife group of artists, this exhibition showcases nearly 100 specially created art works celebrating the Cathedral and the people who care for it. The exhibition, which runs until 2nd May, inclusive, was opened by The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, The Bishop of Ely, at a Private View on Friday 8th April; alongside speaker Richard Cork – Art Critic, Historian, Editor and Exhibition Curator.

The OuseLife drawing group began on a cold February evening in 1997. Five determined artists braved the icy weather and lonely roads to meet in a furniture workshop in the tiny hamlet of Little Ouse. There, amongst the woodworking machinery and sawdust, they spent a happy two hours drawing from a life model. The group continues to meet weekly, and has held a number of successful exhibitions, and published two books. The group is a not for profit organisation. The philosophy of the group is to provide a space and a model from which the artist can work in whichever way they choose. This provides essential practice, discipline and observation for the group’s artists, who include painters, sculptors, ceramicists, printmakers, illustrators, photographers, jewellers, textile and environmental artists. It lays the draughtsmanship groundwork to take on the wider challenges the artists set themselves.

Examples of the works currently on display include: the Cathedral’s famous Prior’s Door returned to its original glory for the first time in 850 years with the ‘Christ in Majesty’ Tympanum, by Kimberley Allen; a vast crown of thorns sculpture suspended below the Octagon Tower, by Jane Frost; a 20ft high steel sculpture Generation, by Cary Outis; and the people who make things happen, and keep the history safeguarded – for example, The Organist by Tom Jones, and The Archivist by Steven Bramble.


(Image by OuseLife – ‘Christ in Majesty’ Tympanum by Kimberley Allen)

The Archivist by Steven Bramble

(Image by OuseLife – The Archivist by Steven Bramble)

OuseLife has had unprecedented access to the people and buildings of the Cathedral. Through these connections artists have had the opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes of Cathedral life, past and present. This exhibition includes a wide variety of styles and media, reflecting the diversity of the OuseLife artists. A new perspective on Cathedral life is revealed through Painting, Sculpture, Textiles, Photography, Prints, Film, Willow Work and Ceramics.  Along with site specific artworks, this collaboration has inspired a wealth of portraits of people involved in the day to day life of the Cathedral.

OuseLife member and artist contributor Caroline Forward said:

This exhibition draws from a treasure trove of objects, experiences, stories and people who make the Cathedral what it is. We’ve been inspired by the passion, knowledge and enthusiasm of all those involved in Cathedral life and have tried to bring this out of the shadows.

  • Free admission to the exhibition in the South West transept
  • Normal charges apply to view the site specific pieces throughout the Cathedral
  • Free admission with a CB6/CB7 residents pass

The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral

*The information above was kindly provided by Caroline Forward – member of the OuseLife group. To find out more about the artists and future exhibitions you can follow the team on Facebook and Twitter – and also via their website HERE! For further information about ‘The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral’ – including images of works and interviews – please contact Caroline Forward via email: admin@ouselife.co.uk. The majority of the art works on display during the exhibition are available to purchase and a commission on sales will be gifted to the Cathedral. If you do attend the exhibition then we’d love to see – tweet your pictures to @OuseLifeGroup and @thetrove_cambs with the tag #cambscreativetreasures.

2 Comments on “Exhibition: The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral

  1. What a wonderful backstory and I love that Still Life from Steven Bramble. I haven’t paid a visit to Ely in years, now may be the time to correct that!
    Laura xx | Loved By Laura

    • Thanks for reading Laura! I think it is well worth a visit especially if you appreciate the Cathedral itself. The exhibition is a fantastic exploration of it’s history and present day workings. Let me know if you do get the chance to go!

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