Gormley’s DOUBT comes to Wells

25th August 2021

The scaffolding is in place, the Cathedral Works Department are on hand, and all eyes are on one empty niche on the West Front of Wells Cathedral in anticipation of the installation of Antony Gormley’s new sculpture, DOUBT tomorrow.

Gormley’s DOUBT comes to Wells Cathedral

This life-sized iron cast is the latest rendition of the human form to occupy the niches on the front of the 800 year old medieval Cathedral and will take its place beside kings, bishops, angels and apostles when it is installed below the North West tower of the Cathedral.

It is being loaned by the artist for 18 months in a community partnership project with Project Factory CIC and Wells Cathedral.

Of the work, Gormley said:

“I am very aware of the paradox of placing an object called DOUBT on the facade of a building devoted to belief, but it seems to me that doubting, interrogating, questioning, are all part of belief. 

“For me doubt can be a positive force and the imaginative engine of future possibility.

“I have chosen this niche on the West Front of Wells Cathedral for its exposed position and visibility: the book at the end of the bookshelf. 

“Most of the figures on the west facade stand facing the world in an open attitude of confidence, proudly displaying their attributes – regal, military, and divine. In contrast, I have used the orthogonal geometry of our modern habitat to evoke the body as a place. 

“DOUBT is literally on edge and teeters uneasily out of its niche, one foot perilously off the ledge and one shoulder jutting forward. This cast iron body has collapsed into itself, compressing torso to pelvis; energy is drawn inwards but the head juts out enquiringly into space at large.

“In the context of an 800-year-old celebration of hierarchy, I wish to make a space for a contemporary state of mind. Perhaps paradoxically, by using a rigorous abstract language, my primary purpose is to engage the eye and body of the viewer in empathic projection, to consider our time in the shelter of other times.”

The Very Reverend Dr John Davies, Dean of Wells said:

“The West Front of Wells Cathedral is one of the wonders of medieval architecture – a triumph of statuary and design. And now is to be added, for a period, a sculpture by one our greatest contemporary sculptors, Antony Gormley. Medieval and modern, ancient, and contemporary. Will we see contrast or complementarity? Come and see, then decide!”

The Cathedral Works Department and Gormley Studio teams have worked collaboratively to ensure the installation is both part of the West Front but has no impact on the historic fabric.

A temporary plinth, secure non-invasive fixings and protective measures have all been specifically designed to seamlessly integrate the sculpture with the Medieval architecture while in position, and then be fully reversible to return Niche 338 to its original condition.

During July and August 2021, to celebrate the imminent arrival of Gormley’s Doubt, Niche 338 was transformed by two colourful  “Flower Flashes” by local florist Lynnsey Kelly.

Visit niche338.org or follow the story on Instagram: @niche_338

Gormley’s DOUBT comes to Wells Cathedral