We were delighted to welcome contemporary British figurative sculptor, Anna Gillespie, to Dean Close this week.  With captivating masterclasses for our Sixth Form artists and her own pop-up Exhibition in our BonBernard Gallery, Anna’s visit was inspiring, spirited and hugely rewarding for all. 


Over the last 10 years, Anna Gillespie’s work has focused on capturing the feeling of immersion in nature. More recently, with visits to Africa and America, Anna’s focus has shifted from her local natural environment to exploring where the urban human experience meets the natural environment, how humans are influenced by the man-made environment and our interaction as a species with the planet. This new work seeks to draw parallels with the historical experience of people world-wide and their movements through the ages; the individual is lost, almost unrecognisable within the mass of humanity. Despite these political aspects to Anna’s work, the figures she creates are also deeply personal.


During her time with us, Anna gave a talk on the processes used to create her pieces, and went on to lead a series of sculpture workshops, teaching our pupils how to make a strong wire armature and build up the bulk of the form using masking tape. Black wax was then layered onto each structure to add more detail to the figure. Our artists were encouraged to combine their sculptures with a symbolic object which were then presented in an exhibition. Our pupils relished being taught by a professional artist, cross referencing the beauty and complexity of her work on show in the Gallery and it was fascinating to see the impact on our pupils.


Of her Dean Close visit, Anna said,
“Well… what a fantastic three days!  On a personal level, teaching a three day workshop in Dean Close’s Art department has been huge fun and I was welcomed into the school by both staff and pupils alike.  The Sixth Formers seemed to lap up the knowledge that I was offering them; what was particularly impressive was the way they showed real persistence and resilience through difficult moments (and even whole sessions!) in the tasks I set them.  Sculpture is difficult, and an entirely new set of skills and materials was being introduced, and each student at times had to push through feelings of disappointment, frustration and ‘it’s not working’ – sometimes starting again if necessary, but impressively always willing to take on board help I was offering.  I trust that in the end they feel rewarded for their steely and wonderfully humorous approach.  It was certainly a very rewarding experience for myself.  Thank you, Dean Close!”


Caroline Evans, Director of Art at Dean Close, commented,
“It was such a joy and a privilege to have Anna working with us in the Department for the past three days. She has engaged and enthused our pupils and enriched their learning through her inspirational talks and workshops. The stunning figurative sculptures that have come out of this are testament to the impact she has made.” 


About the Artist
Born in 1964, Anna Gillespie read Philosophy, Politics & Economics at Wadham College, Oxford and then International Relations at the London School of Economics. In 1988, Anna returned to sculpture training in Stone Masonry and Carving before working at Centro d’Arte, Verrocchio, Italy as studio assistant to sculptor Nigel Konstam, going on to complete her MA in Fine and Media Arts. Anna now lives and works in the south west of England and is represented by the Beaux Arts galleries in Bath and London. Anna Gillespie has work is in the collections of The Prudential, Burghley House Sculpture Park, The Somerset Museum, Museo Arte Contemporanea Sicilia, Bodrum Sculpture Park in Turkey and also in private collections throughout America, the Middle East, and Europe.