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Devon artists chosen to create stunning new artwork at Exeter St David’s

Published: 26 October 2023

Devon artists chosen to create stunning new artwork at Exeter St David’s Isabel Keen from Ashburton and Jack Ratcliff from Plymouth

Two artists have been selected to create a striking new artwork highlighting Exeter’s UNESCO City of Literature status at a key gateway into the city.

Exeter UNESCO City of Literature and Great Western Railway, along with a community panel, have chosen two Devon artists to produce a new, permanent artwork at Exeter St David’s station.

Isabel Keen from Ashburton - working under the name Billy Ruffian - and Jack Ratcliff from Plymouth will produce artwork celebrating Exeter’s literary status.

The artwork will be installed along the two public footbridges at Exeter St David’s and will be in place by the end of February 2024.

It will be one of the biggest permanent public art commissions to take place in Exeter for some time, and is part of Exeter City of Literature’s ongoing work with GWR to celebrate Devon’s literary heritage with input from local communities.

A previous grant enabled groups from St Martin’s Primary in Cranbrook, Exeter College, the University of Exeter’s Multicultural Students Society, The Pelican Project, and customers at St David’s to help choose the location of the new artwork and the themes they would most like to see reflected in it.

Almost 30 artists applied for the commission, which is being funded by a grant from GWR’s Community Fund.

The judge’s panel was made up of Anna Cohn Orchard, Executive Director of Exeter City of Literature; Ashley Potter, BA Programme Lead in Illustration at the University of Plymouth; Laura, an artist and member of The Pelican Project; Nick Jarvis, a recent graduate of Exeter College; and Scotty Gillespie, a local artist.

Isabel Keen and Jack Ratcliff both grew up in Devon and met at the University of Plymouth, where they studied illustration. They currently work as illustrators.

Previously, Isabel produced an illustrated publication on Cornish tin miners’ oral histories. In Jack’s final year at university, he was selected as part of a group of students to attend the Angoulême Comics Festival as part of the Exeter UNESCO City of Literature cohort.

Anna Cohn Orchard, Executive Director of Exeter City of Literature, said: “Isabel and Jack’s vision and passion blew the panel away.

“Their idea celebrates Devon’s literary heritage, highlights the themes from the public workshops, and, as Jack said in the interview, shows that books can take you anywhere. We can’t wait to unveil what will be an eye-catching and exciting piece of work in 2024.”

Robin Barrington-Best, Exeter St David’s Station Manager, said: “We’re thrilled to be working alongside Exeter City of Literature once again to support such an exciting and collaborative project. We’re looking forward to seeing Isabel and Jack’s work take pride of place at Exeter St David’s station, as it gives our customers a warm welcome to the city, celebrating rail travel and Devon’s literary history.”

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