Visual Arts Reviews

THE GREAT DOME ART FAIR - Peak District Artisans

One of the strengths of the Fringe is the mixture of events and performances that include both the new and the regulars who all contribute to the quality of the programme offered. The Great Dome Art Fair falls into the latter. And it’s a welcome treat to spend time looking at the high standard of talent and skill that contribute to this event.

The exhibition takes place at The University of Derby’s delectable Dome (and fittingly a former vice-chancellor is one of the exhibitors) which lends a fitting sense of space, height and grandeur to the exhibition. You will find jewellery, silverware, ceramics, furniture, stained glass, fine art, photography, wood and so much more. I found myself very taken with Rebecca H Joselyn’s stunning silver work, immersed in Jill Ray’s landscapes and tempted by the tactile nature of Vivienne Sillar’s ceramics and, to be honest, with over 50 exhibitors could find something to admire and want on every stand.

The Fair is not just about looking at the exhibitors stands. You can talk to the artists, sculptors, designers and crafts people, find out how they work, what inspires them and meet the person behind the art. They are friendly, approachable and very happy to talk about their work and how they achieve different effects, work with material, etc. The preview evening had a live soundtrack provided by the GPS trio, and I couldn’t disagree with their tagline of “cool jazz played beautifully,” as my friend said: “I could have sat there for hours just listening to the music”.

Over the weekend a full programme of talks and demonstrations provides an opportunity to dive a little deeper into the Artisan world. There is a postcard raffle – I bought some tickets so keep your fingers crossed! And if you make any purchases there is a full wrapping service to ensure you can take your new piece of art home safely. The coffee bar will be open, so if you want a break from wandering around, grab a drink, something to eat, sit down, listen to music, catch up with friends and soak up the atmosphere for a wee while.

Maria Carnegie

BUXTON ART TRAIL 2017 - Buxton Art Trail

Visual Arts always has a strong presence in the Buxton Fringe and it’s lovely to see the return of the Buxton Art Trail. Pick up your map from the Fringe Desk and many other locations across Buxton and set off for a different way to explore the town, a route that will take you into the main high street and some less populated ginnels.

Your intrepid reviewer enlisted the help of two out-of-town friends for this review, one of whom is an exhibited artist herself.

We certainly weren’t expecting so much hospitality, and it was lovely being offered tea, coffee, cordial and even wine. We sampled many cakes (special mention to Charles’ courgette cake), strawberries and biscuits. We were welcomed into people’s homes, studios, gardens and all the unique spaces temporarily turned into exhibition spaces, from shop windows and pubs to outhouses currently being converted into living spaces. But onto the art...

It seems disingenuous to name a just a few out of so many, but we’re going to. Ruby Moon at the Hummingbird Project talked us through the quilted panels; made up of squares stitched by different people to express their hopes for the future. One of the squares had come all the way from Australia. Their ambition is to create 100 panels and tour the exhibition.

We have seen lots of different types of art from pottery, twisted sticks, feltwork, glass, photography, video and such a variety of printing methods; thank you to Louise Jannetta for talking us through some of her techniques. We saw the outdoors brought indoors at the Green Man Art Gallery where we walked up Ilsa Elfords indoor waterfall, supped elderflower cordial at Transition Buxton and met Carl Longmate in his beautiful home who talked about the triumphs and trials of painting outdoors…there was a very friendly wee dog to say hello to as well.

And this is what’s great about the Art Trail, aside from the cake and the opportunity to have a squint inside some people’s lovely homes but it’s talking to the artists, taking the opportunity to understand a little about what inspires them and how they approach their work. It was great to see art and meet artists at all stages in their careers, from award winning full time artists, to young artists exhibiting for the first time – all talented and all enthusiastic and keen to great and talk to those of us hiking the hills of Buxton.

There’s still Sunday to go, so grab a BAT trail and hit the streets.

Maria Carnegie with help from Caroline and Yvonne

2017 ART EXHIBITION - Burbage Art Group

Having recently completed my own GCSE art course, I was very interested in exploring the work of local artists and wished to discover what opportunities were available in terms of continuing, starting or renewing artistic development.

Held in an airy and open hall the makeshift gallery had a very welcoming atmosphere and the provision of refreshments lent an almost coffee morning like familiarity and friendliness to the exhibition. This relaxed sense was only aided after reading several of the information cards about the various artists showcased and it became obvious that the art group was composed of people with varying degrees of artistic experience as well as different ages and genders. From Rita Baldwin, a very promising artist who had only begun attending the group six weeks ago, to Laura Critchlow, a member for eleven years, the variation in terms of method and experience created a very interesting collection of pieces. It was Laura Critchlow’s work that I would particularly recommend, especially for those interested in classical and fine art, her studies of miniature still life fruits had a very realistic quality to them, her talent recognised as she is a member of the Royal Miniature Society.

In terms of the artistic methods available to any prospective group members the work of a Buxton Community School student highlighted the fact that photographic, collage, oil, watercolour and other alternative creative methods are on offer.

Overall the exhibition was very enjoyable and it was very interesting to see the talent of the local community, for anyone considering joining the group I would definitely recommend it, whether you’re someone who has never picked up a paintbrush or wish to restart a previous passion. Anyone who would like to express an interest can contact Rachel Slaney on 01538 266220 or just go to the Burbage Institute at 7:15 on a Wednesday night.

Anna O'Boyle

WILDNESS AND WET - The Green Man Gallery

The Green Man Gallery has become a real arts hub during the Fringe hosting many shows and workshops as well as its own displays and the prestigious Buxton Spa Prize. With so much going on there, it would be easy to miss the jewel in the crown - a wonderful Green Man artists’ exhibition right at the top of the gallery inspired by the words of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins: “Oh let them be left, the wildness and wet. Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”

There is much to admire here but one has to start with Ilsa Elford’s phenomenal waterfall painting literally cascading down the staircase before turning the corner into the main room. Ilsa’s paintings always have vigour and the subject matter really suits her this time - I also really liked her series of bold, close-up river pictures on the walls. Visitors cannot avoid “paddling” through Ilsa’s river, which feels deliciously naughty, in order to fully appreciate other works such as the delicate Garden Girl by Charlie Collins of Sky Arts Portrait Artist fame or Val Muir’s lifelike 3D work, Moss & Rocks.

This really does seem to have been a subject that inspired the artists. Photographer Caroline Small is quite prolific on the theme, always showing things in a new light. Her intimate portrait of a waterfall in the Pavilion Gardens makes the water seem oddly thick and gelatinous while Water Sprite, showing the River Wye tumbling over a weir, seems to render the water liquid gold.

Across the room, Fiona Jubb’s The Wild, Wild Weeds is a successful mixed media series where fabric and threads represent unruly weeds, the pictures becoming wetter and more painterly in the bottom row of works, as if delving underwater.

A further highlight of the exhibition is Kate Aimson’s extraordinary Stitch Journal in which her mosaic patchworks chart a painful eight-day passage on a ship bound for Tristan da Cunha. Kate was recovering from heart problems and her motifs cleverly express her moods and observations on-board leading to a spectacular, multi-colour conclusion, that sadly has a sting in the tail.

There are many other artists’ work on display here, both 3D and 2D and in a dazzling variety of media, all adding value to a highly atmospheric and thought-provoking exhibition. Do check this one out - it may make you think quite differently about Buxton’s not infrequent umbrella days.

Stephanie Billen

THE FREEZER ART FAIR - Underground

In typically enterprising fashion, Underground have converted what could have been a dead space in their venue – an enormous walk-in freezer – into an exhibition space for bijou exhibits. I was conducted round the back of the bar, into a more select area, and there the Freezer door was opened.

The Freezer will contain work from a variety of artists over the course of the Fringe. In this case, it contained the textural landscapes of Cheshire, rendered in wax and oil on wood by Congleton artist Harriet Rous. The works are dense and atmospheric, perhaps not entirely flattered by the harsh lighting of the Freezer but nonetheless striking and moody.

It’s definitely worth a visit to this unusual space … who knows what the Freezer will hold when the door is opened for you?

Robbie Carnegie

LOUISE JANNETTA FINE ART - Louise Jannetta Gallery & Studio

Louise Jannetta’s studio is charming and something of a ‘hidden gem’ in Buxton, as I discovered when I went to see her latest exhibition. Set back from Dale Road in an old industrial workshop, with its steep steps, high ceilings, printing press and big windows (providing plenty of light throughout the day) it is the perfect space for her gallery and workshop.

At first glance around the room, there are many quite large canvasses and pictures grouped together. There are woods and trees in different seasons with strong colours in some and more muted tones in others. There are also compositions of buildings in Buxton: backyards near the studio with washing hanging out; a view of houses on the slopes in early morning light and another one looking down from the slopes to the Opera House.

Louise is a self-trained artist who has been making art professionally for about ten years. She works quickly and loves to experiment, she told me. Her pictures are, from a distance, bold and eye-catching – she uses a large sketch book and often large canvasses. Yet, up close, as it were, she works hard at the detail. Louise is a very playful, ‘tactile’ creative artist who is passionately interested in exploring surface texture – in many forms. She is, she admits, very “artistically curious” and enjoys working in many different mediums, from water colours to textured oil paintings, to collage and felt and she has also developed her unique method of making ‘intaglio’ prints. In this exhibition, she groups pictures thematically but shows the versatility of the various techniques she has evolved. Her images are really lively and engaging with a freshness and ‘freedom’ which belies their complexity and subtlety.

In her textured oil work on trees, Louise has matured her own, labour intensive method of carefully cutting and layering canvass pieces to “create a painterly effect”. In this way, she responds to her medium so that her designs grow out of the way she works. “The fabric lends itself to natural shapes and forms,” she tells me. She creates the atmosphere of woods by making bark and branches not only into patterns but also richly textured. In this way, light and shadow are reflected but also created afresh on the surface of her work. After layering, she adds oil paints and oil glazes which add depth but also subtleties of colour. There are also some tree canvasses in white oil paint so that they almost appear to be porcelain or pottery reliefs – relying on natural light to create shadows and contrast. These show how she is constantly evolving and experimenting.

I am far from being an ‘expert’ but Louise Jannetta is, in my opinion, a hugely talented artist making this exhibition well worth a visit. She has a very informative website:www.louisejannetta.co.uk

Karey Lucas-Hughes

DERBYSHIRE H₂O - High Peak Artists

One of two water-themed exhibitions at this year’s Fringe, this is a pleasurably diverse display of work ranging from ceramics to glass and jewellery to paintings, all offering a different take on the county’s plentiful H₂O.

Located upstairs in the Pavilion Gardens’ Art Cafe and showcasing the award-winning High Peak Artists group, the exhibition flanks the walls, drawing the viewer in both through the quality of the art and the useful and intriguing write-ups provided by the creators. Emma Sidwell’s Sunken Memories, possibly the first picture you will come to after you come up the stairs, is an intricate pencil, watercolour and pen work that displays a colourful fantasy world underneath Errwood Reservoir. The same artist is also inspired by the idea of Peak District’s mermaids’ pools. It seems that where there is water there is always the chance of some pretty interesting legends with felt-maker Suzy Shackleton keen to introduce us to Combs Reservoir’s version of the Loch Ness Monster - the Combs Crocodile. Ingrid Karlsson is also drawn to Combs for her dreamy mixed-media narrative work Flower Moon.

Others take a more realistic view of water with Richard Prime showing us in beautiful detail some of the fish found in Derbyshire rivers, and photographer Jan Butcher homing in on waterfalls. Silk painter Pauline Townsend makes an interesting choice of subject in Buxton’s so-called “Blue Lagoon”, her write up giving the toxic explanation for this invitingly blue patch of water in Harpur Hill. Her depiction of St Ann’s Well becomes almost political as she informs us how the Buxton Enclosure Act of 1772 decreed that Buxton people must have access to natural spring water.

Several accomplished artists including David Woodrow, Carl Longmate and Howard Levitt have produced atmospherically watery landscapes but there is also an intense focus on the very essence of water in works such as Adele Kime’s glistening jewellery inspired by water splashing against the side of St Ann’s Well. Susan Johnson wittily illustrates the commodification of water with her mixed media work showing a Buxton water bottle spilling out Buxton-branded droplets.

There is a great deal else to appreciate here - from Pentimento’s ceramics of a dragonfly and river birds to Jane Dewberry’s old-fashionedly perfect well dressing embroidery or Jill Kerr’s superb linocuts of a mute swan and grey heron from her local walking patch along the River Wye. With over 40 members, the High Peak Artists group is always throwing up surprises so do pay a visit, maybe over a cup of tea, or should that be a refreshing glass of H₂O?

Stephanie Billen.

DERBYSHIRE OPEN 2017 - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

This prestigious annual exhibition, now in its 35th year, is always one of the highlights of the Buxton Fringe and this year’s event has plenty to delight visitors.

The theme of the show, which is open to professional and amateur artists, is the life and landscape of Derbyshire and most of the pictures this year are obviously relevant to this, whether capturing busy skies or busy places. Buxton itself figures strongly with the Derbyshire Trophy winner, Pavilion Reflection - a bright and beautiful watercolour by Mark Langley - depicting two men on a bench seemingly oblivious to the grandeur of the Pavilion Gardens’ mirror-like glass building behind them.

Of the 264 entries, 17 came from young people aged 21 and under. Katherine Marrow, winner of the Derbyshire County Council Young Artist Award, delivers a real wow with her large and animated oil painting Traveller’s Rest, again taking inspiration from the Pavilion Gardens but showing a lively scene at one of its regular car events. I also very much liked Solomon’s Stones from young entrant J Bell. This mixed media work used actual rocks with shadows painted on them to deliver an uncannily 3-D effect as well as bringing a friendly personality to the familiar landmark of Solomon’s Temple.

This is definitely an exhibition that repays close inspection. For every painting that makes a big splash in the room - Harry McArdle’s colourful Edge of Quarry or S Bartle’s amazing oil, Fiery Landscape for example - there is something else exquisite that you may initially have walked past. M Langley’s colour pencil work Aspectus Apricus suffers by being placed next to the zingy Traveller’s Rest but is wonderfully delicate while Laura Critchlow’s Denby Ware Still Life of an apple and jug is an exquisite miniature that repays close scrutiny.

It is probably true to say that most artists have taken a traditional approach but there is some quiet experimentation ranging from Sue Lewis-Blake’s dramatically low horizon in Cloud Rise to 17-year-old Annabel Pitt’s decision to take the jewel-like colours of the stained glass of Buxton Opera House and have them inform her whole vibrant painting. Don’t miss either the sculptures in the glass boxes including the innovative ceramic Derbyshire Slice from Helen Cunliffe.

The exhibition is on throughout the Fringe so do take the opportunity to find your own special pieces (there is a chance to vote for a Visitors’ Favourite) and while you are in the building why not poke your head into the museum proper which is undergoing extensive and exciting refurbishment - don’t worry, they have kept the stuffed bear!

Stephanie Billen