Visual Arts Reviews

Annual Art Exhibition - Burbage Art Group

Black cat watercolour by Rachel Slaney

The hour I spent attending The Burbage Art Group's exhibition was well rewarded.

The artists in the group had displayed their work over two rooms...and tea and cake were provided too! I was welcomed by an easel upon which a pleasantly framed series of watercolour sketches sat, - entitled "A day in the life of Ollie" by Sandra Parkins. The piece invited a closer scrutiny, careful detail and lively poses made Ollie the cat the first point of interest and set the scene for the exhibition perfectly (no pussy jokes now).

Each artist had their own space upon which to set out their portfolio of paintings, sketches and drawings. Some paintings had been framed, some were pinned, others propped up or blu tacked to the walls, others were simply presented within folders or sketch books. Additionally a selection from all the artists' work had been chosen to adorn a central pair of screens.

I walked around taking in the atmosphere and buzz, and noted the varying styles of work presented, and the interesting sizes & shapes of canvasses. My eyes were caught by the many images, textures, colours and themes. I suddenly needed to reach out and touch the mixed media piece depicting a beach and rocks by artist -Hilary McLynn. Her use of sandy and rocky textures effectively added a 2 ½ dimensional interest to the piece. By the same artist a watercolours glow enticed me to look closely at the appealing detail of the bark of the Plane Tree in Summer", but this time the texture had been achieved by brushstrokes.

A white page glowing with watercolours will always attract my eye, and J Pell had brought an Alsatian to life for me using this medium. The colour, warm vibrant rich brown of the dog's chest stood out so well with its wet nose and beautiful eyes it almost seemed to breathe (or pant).

I felt impressed by Laura Critchlow's pieces, well executed and staged, especially as I had attempted to paint daffodils in the past. I know how difficult they are to depict which added to my enjoyment of her "Daffodils" that she had worked in acrylic.

Kath Jones derived inspiration from maidens in folklore. Her "Ophelia" in oil shows the damsel immortalised prettily by water and covered with dark ominous waterlillies prior to her death. The "Waif" pen and ink drawing and watercolour is simple, timeless and charmingly rustic with its sepia hues, Kath carries sepia into another level using tea bags in a creative way.

Linda Rolland's "Valley" was a strong, moody drawing which caught my eye because it picked out the sculptural shapes defining the landscape rather than smallish detail. Her drawing of "Fountain Abbey" used clever perspective to pick out its ribbed inner ceilings and spaces.

Jean Tym talked to me about her piece "A Quiet Corner" competently executed in oils. I was intrigued by the ochre russet hue behind the wall on the right of the painting and was informed that Aspen trees had grown there but had died back. With the pretty bunches of snowdrops delicately painted in the foreground and path leading away through an opening way off in the distance the piece was a delight to find.

There were many more gems in store. I enjoyed "Old Isleworth" by J. Delinikajtis, worked in pen; and a water colour by Geoffrey Willis entitled "Lake District" (a watercolour stage in snow) and Greg Parkins' "Walk in the Snow" worked in acrylic. Each scene was sensitively and accurately drawn, yet the artist had made them unique.

Maria Hyde had an interesting take on portraits, the fluid "Ronnie Woods" caricature in pencil was wicked. Stephanie Osborne presented an unfinished collage, a dramatic chiaro-sciro portrayal of a poignant moment depicting newly wedded elopers holding hands on a deserted beach- all set to music (an unfinished piece)

I loved delving into Rachel Slaney's sketch books and portfolios, opening onto drawings of heavy spring lambs, cobbled back street terraces, imposing architectural halls...and chatting with her as well!. She runs the Art Group and agreed wholeheartedly that Burbage had talent galore.


Collectors and Collections: Work and Pensions - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

(Derbyshire County Council: Buxton Museum and Art Gallery)

Buxton Museum & Art Gallery's secondary exhibit for the Fringe takes as its theme the centenary of the state pension and uses it as a jumping-off point for a collection covering work in the High Peak in all its forms, as well as displays covering the work of the friendly societies.

There are many individually interesting pieces on display - I particularly liked the etching of Martha Norton, the 18th century well woman, the portrait of the well-to-do Horsley family of 1845, and the engraving of the grandees of the Central Executive of the Cotton Famine Relief Committee in Manchester from 1871, as well as the lacquered writing box depicting the Grove in Victorian times. However, I did feel that, interesting though many of the individual pieces were, there was perhaps a lack of a cohesive theme running through them. Maybe the theme of 'work' is just too wide to make for the sense of narrative which is at the heart of a really good exhibition.

Robbie Carnegie

Exhibition of Paintings - Alan Bailey

One-time Fringe chair Alan Bailey is an accomplished artist who won the Derbyshire Open's Watercolour prize in 2006 and the Fringe Visual Arts Award last year. A familiar exhibitor on the Fringe, he is back with 60 paintings of the Peak District exhibited at his home studio on Buxton's Green Lane up the road from Poole's Cavern.

Even if you have seen his work before, it is well worth taking another look because Alan is an artist who is always developing and there are some surprising new paintings on display including beautiful large-scale iris watercolours drawing the eye into their cavern-like centres, and arresting interpretations of nearby Grin Low with angular cloud formations achieved with pastels used on their sides.

Alan says his newer pastels have been influenced by the technique of David Blackburn, a contemporary of David Hockney: 'Seeing his work gave me itchy fingers'. But Alan's pastels have a style all of their own combining a sense of the geometry of scenes with his trademark sensitivity when it comes to landscape and light.

It is fascinating to see how Alan embraces versatility, working with subtle sepia tints or pastel colours as in the misty Lathkill Dale scene achieved with wet on wet watercolour, or else changing tack completely to come up with vibrant oil paintings such as his Moorland Drama picture at the top of the stairs alive with purples, blues and yellows. Some of his paintings are totally representational whilst others veer excitingly into abstraction. Above all, he never stands still and he likes to experiment.

One of the great assets of this exhibition is that you not only meet the artist who is happy to talk about his work, but you get to see his upstairs studio with its inspiring views over Buxton. An excellent portrait on an easel points to yet more possible directions and it is fun to see a work in progress - a bold oil of trees - with its colours squeezed out on a pallet ready for use.

This really is a great opportunity to meet this justly acclaimed artist and see his works in situ, so do take the short walk to see him, following the signs to the newly revamped Poole's Cavern, another Fringe venue and well worth a visit while you are at it.

Stephanie Billen

IMAGE2008 Festival Fringe Photographic Competition - Bookstore Brierlow Bar

Bookstore Brierlow Bar

After involvement of several years the Bookstore at Brierlow Bar makes a further foray into Fringe activities. This time in the form of their Fringe Photographic Competition. Open to all-comers the competition had three themes; Wild Nature, Industrial Archaeology and Landscape.

Although the number of entries was small, the quality was not diminished, with each of the winning entries showing some measure of both skill and interpretation. The winner of the Landscape section was a shot of that oft photographed local scene Chrome Hill in winter. In the other categories it was nice to see images of the remains of mining activity in Lathkill Dale, normally associated with natural beauty were to the fore.

The exhibition places images in and around the shelves, hopefully it seems, tempting the browser. If anything the pictures could benefit from framing and a little information for the interested viewer. However, this is the first of what is hoped to be many more exhibitions and I for one look forward to the next!

Ian Heath

Spirit of the Place - Sue Mortin

at The Place, Market Street; every day during restaurant opening hours check on 01298 214565

Child psychologists claim that the pattern of the human face - the configuration of eyes, nose and mouth - is essentially fascinating and absorbing. Pretty much from birth, babies find the face of their primary carer (mother usually) of compelling interest.

As we grow older we are less inclined to stare at the faces of others. However fascinated we may be by others, it is socially unacceptable to be obviously engrossed by others' faces. Sue Mortin's paintings are challenging in a number of ways.

She paints faces that are relatively two-dimensional and similar in pattern and structure. She paints with boldness, confidence and urgency. Her paintings are on the one hand compelling - they address us directly and appeal to basic instincts - but on the other hand they are disquieting because they urge you to do what you are told you should not. Many of the clues of non-verbal communication on which we depend to understand the meaning of a face are missing. These faces have to be comprehended in other ways.

Sue's work also asks questions about the purpose of art and the way in which it has been intellectualised. Much artwork in galleries requires some understanding of art history and the relationship of one movement to another. Sue's paintings come from fundamental sources. She uses the term 'mystical'; not everyone will feel comfortable with that, but everyone will have a sense for the meaning of what they see.

Keith Savage

The Derbyshire Open 2008 - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Rod Holt, 'Overexposed', Winner, Derbyshire Open 2007

One of the annual treats of the Buxton Fringe calendar is surely the Derbyshire Open. Buxton Museum & Art Gallery's exhibition of the work of local artists always contains much to enjoy and this year is no exception. Personally I'm a fan of bold composition and strong colour, and my personal tastes amongst the works on display reflects that - Veronica Snook's arresting oil Portrait of Alexandra, Alison Toothill's oil landscape, Win Hill, Ken Spencer's dramatic acrylic rendering of The Foundry, John Rattigan's stylish Crowd No 2, and Lucy Gell's comedic silkscreen monoprint Hen all caught my eye. But these were just a few of the striking and memorable works on display, both by young and old. As always, the Derbyshire Open is well worth a visit.

Robbie Carnegie

The Great Dome Art Fair - Peak District Products

The Great Dome Art Fair Peak District Products

For a heady mix of textiles, ceramics, chocolate, wood, silver and glass in the magnificent setting of the Devonshire Dome, head to the Great Dome Art Fair as one of the treats of the last weekend of the Fringe.

Seeing the exhibits, you begin to appreciate the diversity of talent and businesses that operate in the area, and it would be unfair to pick any one out above the others. Going round, we sampled chocolate, bought some cards and jewellery and watched a stunning candlestick demonstration. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and have some treasures to remember the event by - although the chocolate isn't going to last long!