Visual Arts Reviews

Annual Art Exhibition - Burbage Art Group

View near Coombs (pen and ink/watercolour pencils) by Rachel Slaney

Burbage Institute, 18th July 2009

The Burbage Art Group describe themselves as 'enthusiasts'. They meet on Wednesday evenings under the guidance of Rachel Slaney who clearly helps them develop in a myriad of directions in style, subject and media. Their annual exhibition is as a result a very diverse offering both as a group and sometimes as individuals.

I'll try to capture some of this variety: There are beautiful landcapes, and townscapes, for example J. Delinikajlis' oils and watercolours - I particularly liked 'White Cross Hotel' evoking the enjoyment to be had at a riverside pub on a sunny day. There were some nicely observed out of the way corners such as Hilary McLynn's watercolour studies of the quirky collection of old doors, windows, gates etc that make up the 'traditional' allotment shed. There are abstracts like Sue Somerset's feathery oil pastel works, contrasting with the carefully drawn portraits by Maria Hydes. And much, much more.

Viewers can also enjoy a tea or coffee with some lovely cakes. And children can have their visit enhanced by completing the exhibition quiz. Question 10: What is your favourite picture of all? Usual Answer: One of Sandra Parkin's paintings of domestic and wild animals.

To celebrate Fringe30 year, the Burbage Art Group opened for an extra two hours. It is a shame, however, that there is only one opportunity to see them every year. The Burbage Institute is a little out of town and there's no chance with a one-day event for any word of mouth support to develop. Maybe some way of bringing an advance taster into the centre of town (at Art on the Railings for example) would enhance the attendance and make all the effort worth while.

Barbara Wilson

Art on the Railings - Art on the Railings

Art on the Railings Banner

Broad Walk, Pavilion Gardens, July 12, 11am to 5pm

This is not the first time that Buxton has seen art displayed in this way but it has been a while and the participating artists were clearly delighted that the idea had been revived by Steve Walker in honour of Fringe30.

'I've met people I haven't seen for years and years', said Dawn Featherstone Kent, explaining how bringing out her mellow Derbyshire landscapes and meeting people had made for a very rewarding social situation apart from anything else. Others talked about the difficulties in finding suitable places to display their art. Certainly a good stretch of the Broad Walk was taken up with a diverse array of art ranging from the primitive cow paintings and mugs of Karen Stewart to delicate copper and silver jewellery from Annie Barnett.

As when I have walked around Montmartre's Place du Tertre or perused park railings in London, I didn't love every picture I looked at but some of those that did little for me had healthy red 'sold' stickers, so what do I know? In any case, plenty of the art did grab me including Neil Smith's large still lifes in oil, each encouraging the viewer to look afresh at ordinary objects such as a selection of chocolates or a pomegranate.

Jilly Duffy-Unwin's dreamy, nostalgic pictures boasted a different kind of attention to detail, one work, The Perfect Setting, reminding us of forgotten high living with its ornate silver knife and fork. Louise Jannetta's The Footpath, with its maze of orange bracken echoed by an entanglement of branches above, stood out for me at this year's Derbyshire Open so it was good to see a print version of it here as well as other original watercolours from this talented artist. At least three of the exhibiting artists (including Louise) can also be seen exhibiting at the forthcoming Art Spectrum at Buxton Infant School next weekend so if you missed Art on the Railings, you haven't missed out totally.

I hope though that the art on the railings idea can be repeated because seeing the works in the open air and chatting to the artists had a peculiar charm all of its own.

Stephanie Billen

Art Show - Kathy MacMillan

Early morning sun on the bandstand. by Kathy MacMillan

5 St Anne's Close, Chapel-en-le-Frith

Some of you may be familiar with Kathy MacMillan's work as she has been a regular exhibitor with the local artists' group in the Pump Room in the past and now in Pavilion Gardens. This Fringe show in Kathy's own home studio, however, gives her the opportunity to display work which departs from the 'niche' she has occupied at these previous exhibitions.

Kathy is well known and appreciated for her detailed watercolours and oils of Peak Districts landscapes - Kinder Scout, Eccles Pike, Water-cum-Jolly - and town and village street scenes - Buxton Opera House and Crescent, Castleton. These have a strong sense of place and are instantly recognisable to anyone with local knowledge. They also convey a strong impression of time and season.

New to this exhibition are paintings of Andalucia, Tuscany and Venice. These again show Kathy's ability to evoke local character beyond her home ground. Also new, and perhaps more interestingly, however, are paintings which she describes as 'freer', less tied to exact place and more about the light, the weather, the textures, the colours in themselves.

Despite its place name title, 'Frosty Skies over Castle Naize', for example, is about the steely cold blue of winter skies. And 'New Life on the River Wye' is about the contrast of deep cool shadows and sparkling light on rippling water.

It's well worth taking the time off from busy Festival Buxton and visiting Kathy's quiet studio in Chapel-en-le-Frith.

Barbara Wilson

Art Spectrum - Art Spectrum

Exhibits at Art Spectrum

Unusually for an exhibition this one is only open for two days so the first task of this reviewer is to say that if you want to see this, and you certainly should, GO NOW. The exhibition closes at 5pm on Sunday the 19th.

It has to close because it is in the Infants School hall and they need it on Monday. It is here because the centre piece of the show is a huge jungle created by the curator Louise Jannetta and fellow exhibiter Susannah Thompson with the infants themselves. Louise and Susannah are committed to the Fringe's ideals of Open Entry and Arts for All and pursue it with enormous energy, enthusiasm and skill. The young people have also created a portrait gallery of adventurers under their guidance in addition to lighting and music for the spectacular Jungle on the stage.

Around this is ranged a quality collection of artists and a stunning variety of media and styles.

Norman Elliott's bright colourblock prints greet you inside the door. Susannah is adjacent with a range of media but particular painted tile and enamel. Ilsa Elford's large Gauginesque paintings round the corner dwarf but do not overshadow Sarah Samuel's delicate, pretty 3D textiles. Previous Fringe Individual Artist award winner Rob Wilson's beautiful Buxton panoramas share space with Dave Hoodith's atmospheric and equally evocative seascapes. You will love Martin Olsson's witty prints. I'm pretty sure Martin was a filmmaker when I first met him years ago and there is a hint of the storyboard here. Either side of the stage you will find Dawn Featherstone-Kent and Steve Elliott. Dawn uses a wide range of media including lino cuts, oils and collagraph. Collagraph prints are notoriously difficult but artists keep using the technique because the results are so rewarding. Norman specialises in oil and pastel Peak District landscapes with a distinctive "colourwash" style.

Louise sees this event as the seed of future community arts events as part of the Fringe and following its open policy. She wants to create and annual arts trail round the town, something the Fringe has been trying to encourage local artists to create for years. With her energy she will be successful, she already sussed many venues round the town. If you would like to be involved, showing your work or opening your house be in touch at

The Fringe be with you!

John Wilson

Close Up Magic Evening - High Peak Magic Society

23 July 2009

An evening of trickery and sleight of hand was presented to an enthusiastic audience at the Paxton Suite, Pavilion Gardens. Nine magicians performed in rotation, whilst Andy Hall entertained with his informative and entertaining introductions throughout the event. A rare opportunity to see classic tricks being performed right before your eyes kept the audience enthralled as things disappeared and reappeared.

Groups of between 10 - 15 people seated at tables were visited in turn by the different performers, each presenting their act in 10-minute bursts. Many of the performers were local members of High Peak Magic Society, founded by Chris Stevenson and Neil Fletcher, based at the Cheshire Cheese in Longnor.

Different card tricks were performed, including cards marked by participants that showed up in the most surprising places - Andy Normansell astounded our table when he produced a folded up card from the inside of his shoe! Ian Barrowdale introduced us to "rotor reciprocating action" although we still remained unsure how he moved the cards around.

Frederic Sharpe bent a fork - whilst in someone else's hand - then went on to produce bigger and bigger coins causing gasps of surprise. Neil Ford tied his own hands in knots - and untied these without letting go. He produced ropes that became longer and shorter before your eyes - and it was impossible to see how he did it!

Andy Lochran introduced himself as a "cheesy" magician, and then performed tricks involving a disappearing rock and bundles of tissue, causing laughter around the table. John Gill surprised us with a photo - ripped in front of us then appearing back together although with the pieces in the wrong place. Bobby Martell left us puzzling as to how he got a penny out of a glass whilst being firmly held by one of the audience members. Lucy and Kelsey did a fantastic job as magicians' assistants, and their looks of surprise and amazement made the tricks even more enjoyable.

High Peak Magic Society promised to "amaze and amuse" and they certainly achieved their aim. Highly recommended!

Sarah Males

Don't Wake Me Up - Don't Wake Me Up


This new shop is a fresh venue for the Fringe and is offering a welcome chance to see the first personal exhibition of successful Buxton-based illustrator, Kelly Dyson - a coup for this festival.

Dyson's accomplished bread and butter work includes illustrations for The Guardian, children's books and sex education booklets but he (for it is a he) has an awesome imagination and it is fascinating to witness its dreamlike manifestations in this intimate show.

Dyson is not one to explain his inky creations so one is left speculating on their meanings and resonances. A girl eyeballs a massive polar bear, another looms into view with a dead squirrel in her mouth, blood spattering... Elsewhere a child lies half submerged in a lily pond but with a smile on her face. What are we to make of these? I found them intriguing but disturbing. Yet on second thoughts I had to agree with the shop owner that they felt more dreamlike than nightmarish.

This dreamlike quality arises also because of a certain timelessness in the pictures - the feral child with squirrel could be from our past or some post-apocalyptic future, while another drawing featuring a young woman with rabbit's ears on her head reminded me of the twilight atmosphere of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

As the internet bears testimony, there are a great many rabbit-obsessed people out there and another of Dyson's pictures depicting a child asleep beside a massive rabbit, has attracted a huge amount of attention for the artist, who tells me that at one time the image was getting 10,000 hits a day on his website.

This year's Fringe-goers are privileged to see the emergence of a significant talent. Dyson says it simply didn't occur to him to have an exhibition in the past. 'I saw illustration as a job for a while. It's only really in the last couple of years that I've begun to get excited at the possibilities of what I can come up with'. More of his pictures are scheduled to go up at Apertures next week so pop in regularly!

Stephanie Billen

Entente Art Florale - High Peak Artists' & Craft Workers' Association

Photograph by Bridget Flemming

The Art Café, Pavilion Gardens

Members of the Association were set the challenge of producing and exhibition that would "move them out of their comfort zone", and have produced art to support Buxton's entry into the international horticultural competition "Entente Florale", a Europe wide event, supported by the RHS.

All the works on show are inspired by flowers and plants, whether as part of a landscape, in a vase or in a garden. There are of course, variations on the theme and even Giant Redwoods get a look in. The subjects are the familiar and the novel, the small and the large. Some, such as Sunflowers are well-known to us from more famous works whilst others are less so. Local scenes dominate as one might expect with Long Hill, Tittesworth, and the Sett and Goyt valleys all present.

The names of some of the artists may be recognized by those of us who frequented the Pump Room, such as Catriona Hall and Jill Kerr. Pieces that stood out for me were Louise Janetta's 'Back yard in bloom' with its focus on the use of urban space, and Lucy Gell's cat and flower with its sense of humour - its difficult to make flowers funny!

The Entente Florale judges are in Buxton at the end of July, and I'm sure they will find the show a welcome addition to the blooms around Buxton.

Ian Heath

From Cuba to Curbar - Suzanne Pearson

One of the opening events of this year's Fringe is a small but delightful exhibition of work by the local artist Suzanne Pearson, who bravely opens her home to the public for this show. The exhibition is a snapshot tour through Suzanne's work, from hesitant beginnings to confident artist by way of some interesting foreign destinations her garage, home and garden.

Arriving at the venue one is directed by clear signs and there is a small but useful guide giving some background to the displays. Among the early works in the garage I liked 'Evening light in the valley' as I'm largely a sucker for rich, vibrant colours. This is contrasted with the woodcuts and etchings where the use of sombre colours reflects a different atmosphere. Continuing through the house we are treated to work inspired by her travels in Ethiopia, Jordan and Berlin. Some of the images are familiar, especially of the ancient city of Petra. Moving on, one encounters familiar images from closer to home such as the deserted Magpie Mine, yet this has its own surprise for the viewer.

The range of media tackled by Suzanne includes oils, chalk and pastels, collages and mixed textiles. One is left with the sense of an artist's growth and connection with her subjects. It is a warm, convivial show and the artist is a genial hostess. She stressed to me that it is a family show and children are very welcome.

The exhibition is open Wednesdays and week-ends throughout the Festival Fringe.

Ian Heath

Image2009 Festival Fringe Photographic Competition - Bookstore Brierlow Bar

The Bookstore Brierlow Bar

This is the second photographic competition and exhibition sponsored by the Brierlow Bookstore. This year there were three categories, 'Light in nature', 'Weather in the Peak District' and 'Children's'.

The winners of each category are Kris Wersely (Light in nature), Karen Leefe (Weather in the Peak District) and Jimmy Hyland (Children). Kris Wersley's photo of a Tern was particularly fine. Other noteworthy entries are in the Peak District section - Gerald Hallworth's 'Rainclouds' and J P Morten's image of Shuttlingslow shrouded by cloud. In the Light in nature section P McGearvey's warm hued landscape is also one to enjoy.

There were more entries than last year and the standard of photos has improved - some of this year's entries are very good indeed. It seems that the competition is catching on and I for one have enjoyed this year's show. It continues until the end of the Fringe during opening hours, and is handily placed behind the main counter - so you won't miss it!

Ian Heath

Planet Domestos - and Beyond! - Adrienne Brown and Langley Brown

©Adrienne Brown: A Quilt for Chloe, from a drawing by her Dad at age 5

18 White Knowle Road

Every day 2.00-6.00pm.

Adrienne Brown and Langley Brown studied and began their careers as artists 40 years ago. Their working lives took them away from full-time artistic endeavour - though both retained close interests in the links between art and physical and mental health. In the last few years they have created the space and opportunity to return to greater creative endeavour. The product of that endeavour is on display on the ground floor of their home on the south side of Buxton.

Langley's work is exhibited in the front room and includes some bold and striking acrylic paintings. He makes no apology - and why should he? - for the clean shapes and deep, rich colours employed. There are also some small-scale constructions using natural materials or shapes - including Planet Domestos itself, a work in progress incorporating a white, earthly globe. A copy of his PhD work - on arts and mental health - reminds you that art works are constructed in a social context as part of a process, and are not simply the inspired product of isolated talents.

Adrienne's work is exhibited in the back room and conservatory. Most is on a smaller scale and is more obviously human in inspiration. Photographs of her mother, son and granddaughter are included - as are quilts, one of which was inspired by a design of her son's when he was 5. Adrienne also includes some dress design from her days at St Martin's, London in the late 1960s. The patterns and shapes are clearly of the time but they have been transferred and printed using the newest processes, which give a freshness to the images.

Adrienne also includes a number of photographs - simple in terms of design, but rich in terms of pattern, shape, colour and texture. She draws on what is to be found in the environment - be it rusted metal, ropes or frosted leaves.

This is a fascinating exhibition all-in-all and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it. Much of the work is for sale (at very modest prices) - and for those working to a small budget Adrienne has produced cards that you may well want to send to yourself.

Please try and make the time to see this work - you won't regret it.

Keith Savage

The Derbyshire Open 2009 - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Rolling Clouds by Sandy Bartle, Winner, Derbyshire Open 2008

An annual highlight, the Derbyshire Open Art Exhibition is 27 years old - almost as old as the Fringe - and looking as sprightly as ever with a fantastic array of work from the county's most talented artists.

The Derbyshire Open competition invites amateurs and professionals to submit entries capturing aspects of life and landscape in Derbyshire. This year a whopping 418 entries have been considered and 106 hung, including 39 works from young people.

It is these youngsters' works that you see first. Joe Kelly's Dancer in Wilderness, a vast mixed media abstract in day-glo pink plus newspaper cuttings, hits you straight between the eyes, but there are also quieter pieces including Samantha Hill's beautifully executed Legends of Derbyshire patchwork, Molly Shaw's moody Solomon's Temple in monochrome pastels and Robert Carnell's Abstract Landscape, involving scrunched up tissue paper and as intricate as a well dressing. Niamh MacNamara's Town Views collage and Thomas Markham's Solomon's View, in which several Buxton vistas collide in one mixed media piece, are also arresting.

In the main gallery the adult works are perhaps not as physically huge and eye-catching as they have sometimes been, but the standard remains excellent. A variety of prizes are made each year, among them the Derbyshire Trophy awarded to Kenneth North's A Pre-Raphaelite Woman in Edale on Seeing the Notice of her Lover's Intended Marriage to Another, a picture dramatic in both style and content, and The Tarmac Ltd Landscape Prize given to Sandra Orme's excellent pastel in which a smoky sky slowly reveals its source - a tiny patch of orange flames far on the horizon. As with North's Pre-Raphaelite Woman, John Ward's When We Lived in Rowarth, winner of the Derbyshire County Council Oil Painting Prize, told a story, the elements of baby, dog and window adding up to a mood of poignant nostalgia.

I have been known to walk straight past the sculptures at the Open, but not this time. E Hallam's bronzes, Kingfisher On Reed Mace and Swimming Otter, cleverly capture the essence of both, while J Perks's wryly entitled Chicken in a Basket stands out as a depiction of battery hen horror.

Back on the walls, things were pretty 3-D too. T Dickinson's wood and acrylic Substrata had what looked like a checked wooden floor seemingly both advancing and retreating (T Dickinson painted those dreamlike pictures with the black and white checked floors a few years ago) while A Whewell's Building Bridges was literally a wooden bridge, interlaced with ribbon and inspired by a bridge in Marrakesh.

Reviewer tend to focus on the more dramatic works but there is plenty else to savour in the way of sensitive landscapes and pastels as well as favourite artists such as collage supremo Rob Wilson and ceramicist Caroline Chouler-Tissier.

Enjoy and don't forget to admire the Fringe30 project Vers@Tile in the same room.

Stephanie Billen

The Great Dome Art Fair - Peak District Products

The Great Dome Art Fair 2009

25th July 2009

It is very pleasing to see this year's Great Dome Art Fair as the second annual fair because it is certainly an event we would like to see returning every year to the Fringe. The quality and variety of the work is exceptional, and the dome is a venue worthy of it.

With an event as multifaceted as this, it is impossible to mention every exhibit, but just to give you some idea of the range I'll mention a few: the stunningly elegant contemporary silver candelabras by Brett Payne; the equally elegant simplicity of Sue Gorman's porcelain; the beautiful multi-textured and multi-layered kimono-style clothing by Jean Martin, vibrant feltwork pieces by Suzy Shackleton; technically brilliant architectural drawings by Mark Langley . . . I hardly know where to stop and the superlatives keep on coming.

One of the pleasures of visiting the fair is the opportunity to talk to the artists about their work. I had a long discussion with Mervyn Tolley about the hardwoods and designs used in his lovely contemporary Windsor chairs, and about historical and regional distinctions found in these classic chairs.

There are also scheduled talks and demonstrations: for those of you reading this on the morning of the 26th July, there are several still to catch from a demonstration on chocolate-making by Cocoadance to a talk on furniture-making by Nicholas Hobbs.

It's a very rich diet - too much to see in one visit. I'm going to have to go again tomorrow.

Barbara Wilson

Theatre of the Unique - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Biding Time by Sue Platt

Buxton Museum

Artist Sue Platt, from Mossley in Manchester has an interesting eye. Her well crafted quirky collections and creations of found and made objects reveal both wit and intelligence, as well as curiosity and perhaps an interest in the mystical. Quite a few of the pieces include religious imagery from Buddhism, Christianity, Egyptology etc alongside scientific paraphernalia and slightly spooky masks and dolls. There is room to imbue the work with your own meaning, or none.

Sue says that when she is assembling the pieces 'a theatre of unique associations is created with each new dialogue and relationship'.

Alongside the cabinets of 3D work there are some textured prints and framed pieces. Of these Earth & Spirit and Imago stand out as strong works in their own right whilst the others seem somehow symbiotic with the 3D works.

This is a participatory exhibition with a number of 'please open' doors and drawers. There is social comment, fun and a wry sense of adventure about it. Go along and view the world briefly through Sue Platt's eye.

Jean Ball

Upon the Moon the Earth's Shadow Fell - Sue Mortin

Upon the Moon the Earth's Shadow Fell

Exhibition at Beltane

As the title implies, Sue Mortin's inspiration for this exhibition of seven paintings is the psychic potential of the lunar eclipse - a time when, she suggests, 'a gateway opens into galactic realms'.

If I've understood the meaning of the exhibition notes correctly, with the moon in eclipse, the influence of Sirius the brightest star in the sky is all the more powerful. Sue's paintings explore this influence through their depiction of Isis, great mother goddess and enchantress, who was associated with Sirius by the ancient Egyptians.

Isis' boldly outlined triangular face is dominated by huge almond eyes with large black irises suggesting the eclipsed moon. Despite the similarity of image which links them, however, the paintings show the goddess in different moods, sometimes fierce, sometimes softly beguiling: she alternately commands and entices you to fly the vaults of heaven.

I'm a sceptic when it comes to claims about the influence of stars on human behaviour. But Beltane is the perfect place for meeting friends during the Fringe, and Sue Mortin's exhibition provides an ideal conversation piece - whatever your views on astrology.

Barbara Wilson

Vers@Tile Exhibition for Fringe30 - Vers@Tile

Harpur Hill working with pastels for Fringe 30's 'Vers@tile project.

Buxton Museum & Art Gallery

If you ever wondered "what is community art?" then your question will be answered by a look at Vers@tile, currently on display at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery. To celebrate 30 years of the Buxton Festival Fringe, local artists have worked with the local community to produce a mixed media tiled triptych, featuring the work of young and old alike. The work is a visual treat, showing how people can work together to produce something that is intriguing, vibrant and colourful.

Buxton Festival Fringe supplied archive materials for the project (also on display) and local artists working in different media facilitated community art workshops inspired by the history of the Fringe. Caroline Chouler-Tissier, ceramicist, coordinated the project, alongside Adele Kime, jeweller, Jill Kerr, printmaker and Sandra Orme, pastel landscape artist. It's fascinating to see how their skills have inspired and informed the artwork produced by the workshop participants.

Accompanying the installation is a slideshow documenting the workshop activity giving an insight into the creativity and enjoyment experienced by participants, children and adults alike. Local schools, Surestart centres and rural arts groups all participated in the workshops, involving up to 150 people in the production of the final piece.

The exhibition is ongoing throughout the Festival, and there is still chance to get involved! This weekend, Saturday 18th July, there is a free workshop for adults and children at the Museum & Art Gallery, so if you want to get some hands on experience of community art in action, book yourself a place! (See the Fringe programme for further details)

The project was made possible with the support of Awards for All & Big Lottery Fund, the Satterthwaite Bequest, the Bingham Trust and Derbyshire County Council

Altogether, the installation and display bears witness to a very successful community arts project, engaging local people and raising awareness of the rich and creative tradition that is Buxton Festival Fringe.

Sarah Males