Visual Arts Reviews

ART AT PAULA'S PAD - Paula Hobdey

Number 9 Wye Head is in a quiet part of Buxton south of the town centre. As soon as I arrived I was made to feel at home, seated on the patio, chatting over tea and cake, and noting the mosaic image of a dog set into the patio wall – an indication of Paula’s love of animals, which is reflected in many of her paintings. I learned that although she’d won an art prize at school when she was eleven, creating a picture of a bird out of flower petals, she didn’t turn to painting as a hobby until after her first marriage had ended. (That first marriage had brought her from Merseyside to the Peak District, where she discovered well dressings - and realised she’d done that sort of thing in her bird picture when she was a child!) After the divorce, evening classes and a few weekends with art tutors gave her the skills she wanted and she began to use them freely, and to good effect.

I was very fortunate to be the only visitor to this venue this lunchtime so I had the exclusive attention of Paula and her partner. Several points struck me about the paintings she’s exhibited, apart from the number of animal images (horses not least, but also dogs and cats and several birds). The sheer variety of styles, from figurative to abstract, is remarkable. So is the range of subjects: landscapes and animal portraits predominate, but Paula is justly proud of her evocative abstracts too. She uses different media; acrylic is obviously her favourite, but look out for the eye-catching impasto work. There’s humour, too: four images of birds constructed in different media are accompanied by little verses, giving each bird a personal name and describing its character. (Paula, as many people probably know, is an accomplished writer as well as a visual artist.) Finally, I was surprised at how low some of the asking prices are. Some of them seemed barely sufficient to pay for the cost of canvas, paint, brushes and frame!

The Buxton Art Trail is well worth following, as always during Festival Fringe time, but Venue 95 makes an excellent starting point. Recommended!

Mark P Henderson

ART AT THE CRESCENT - Peak District Artisans

The Crescent’s spectacular Assembly Room offers more than just a backdrop to the Peak District Artisans’ exhibition. As one artist observed, it creates a special atmosphere of space and peace that is entirely conducive to browsing and chatting with the makers about their work.

Working my way round, I was struck by the huge variety of art with Catriona Hall’s bold animal designs contrasting with the intricacy of Alison Wake’s hand embroidery or the hallucinogenic digital dreamscapes of Terry Baker. One minute I would be losing myself in a pool of green glass at the bottom of one of Gary Sampson’s bowls, the next admiring the wit and elegance of precious metals’ artist Karin Sheldon’s “scribble necklace”.

I discovered that artists I thought I knew were experimenting with different forms. Pam Smart’s love of pattern and colour is shown off to great effect in her new range of silk scarves, displayed here with the sunlight shining through them. Printmaker Joanna Allen also has some beautiful scarves as well as covetable collagraph-printed cuckoos, though it was the elegant, framed print of her Fringe programme design, Good Day Sunshine, that really caught my eye! There are more prints to enjoy from Lottie Adams whose own children feature in some of her atmospheric scenes in delicately muted colours.

Meeting the artists and observing the pictures up close is richly rewarding. Ingrid Katarina Karlsson’s unique mixed media pieces use vibrant monoprints, stitching and words to reflect the Peak District landscapes near her studio. Meanwhile Giles Davies whose collage No Pleasure Cruise, depicting refugees at sea, has been accepted at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, is pleased to point out the clever details of his amazing magazine collages including an actual door in the sea of his picture of Durdle Door. His works are also beautifully lit which makes such a difference.

An oasis of light, colour and jaw-dropping technique, this lovely, free exhibition deserves its steady flow of visitors and is open until 3pm on July 9th.

Stephanie Billen

ART IN THE OCTAGON - High Peak Artists

This vast exhibition lives up to its description in the Fringe programme as an “art extravaganza” offering diverse and affordable work from a huge range of award-winning artists and makers from the High Peak Artists group.

Two trips could be advisable because there is so much to appreciate from prints to collage and jewellery to woodwork. Lovers of fine art will find plenty to enjoy including Howard Levitt with atmospheric landscapes such as Echoes of Errwood, David Lowther whose take on the Peak District even manages to find a new visual language for Solomon’s Temple, and urban sketcher David Steeden whose pictures have all the on-the-spot liveliness of plein air work. It is great to see artists demonstrating their techniques, with Emma Sidwell quietly filling a page with intricate animal-themed “doodling” and self-taught artist Maureen Howard producing finely detailed animal portraits in front of our eyes. Silk painter Pauline Townsend even let me have a go - with rather smudgy results! It was good to see such a range of her work, from the ultra-colourful to the subtle pinks and greens of her Snowdrops and Christmas Rose.

There are a great many wonderful textures to enjoy - I had not realised that Louise Jannetta, who works so well with textures generally, is so accomplished at felting, or that gritty landscape artist Linda Rolland had experimented with some very tactile encaustic work using wax and pigment.

While some artists like printmaker Colette Payne gloried in striking monochrome, others such as Pam Smart or scarves designer Anne Davies relished the riotous possibilities of colour. And so many of the artists wanted to make us smile - textile artist Hannah Dodd has a way of creating happy streets and houses, whilst printmaker Jill Kerr offers satisfyingly clean designs including soaring swallows. Meanwhile who wouldn't want one of Emma Sidwell’s pendants featuring a mini robot?

All this is just to scratch the surface of a very seductive exhibition. Why not see, feel and experience it for yourself?

Stephanie Billen

BAT2022: BUXTON ART TRAIL - Buxton Art Trail

This is the sixth Buxton Art Trail, and each time it manages to build on its earlier successes. Pick up a free trail guide, which gives you brief information about the exhibitors and a map of venues, plan your route and set off for a walk around Buxton.

Local and regional artists and makers take part, and there are professional and amateur artists, as well as community groups. This year it was great to meet some new artists, as well as seeing familiar creators. Part of the joy is the sheer variety of venues. You could be looking in a shop window, exploring a ‘Hub’ in a church hall with multiple exhibitors, going to established galleries or be invited into someone’s home, garden or studio. The range of crafts and art on display is equally wide-ranging with art, pottery, carving, metal work, jewellery, felting, sculpture and so much more. With 47 entries, there really is something for everyone.

Refreshments are available at many of the venues. And this year, there was a street food offer (Dosa Love) which, having had lunch there all in the name of research, I can thoroughly recommend! (The brownies at Susannah Thompson’s were also very tasty). Music and poetry all added to the festival environment at the Buxton Infants BAT hub.

Meeting the artists and hearing their stories, understand a little more about what inspires them and how they create their work is fascinating and adds real value to the trail. It helps make it a personal experience, adds to the interaction. I particularly enjoyed listening to Mark Smallery talking about pottery, Jo Spencer telling us how people bring her broken pots, Rebecca Clitheroe describing how she researches her artworks and Susannah Thompson introducing me to her next projects. I loved hearing about the creative process involved with Sarah Brindley and the More Care Design Collective and the Animal Alter Egos in Suits portraits – both the painted suits and the printed graphics were fantastic. A little further out from the centre of Buxton you'll find Jo Harratt, who is a fibre artist, and creates the most beautiful - and cutest - pieces and scenes of wee critters using vintage material and props. With a very different look and feel Christopher Hield makes props and armour - think steampunk and fantasy cos-play - and talks most passionately about his work and the process involved - who knew that mustard was so versatile?

Congratulations to Linda Rolland and the BAT team for generating a well organised, varied, friendly trail, which really does showcase a spectrum of talent and creativity.

The trail runs for two days – so I’m off to brave the threatening rain on Sunday and visit a few more venues. Perhaps I’ll see you there!

Maria Carnegie


During the lockdown of 2020, many of us got into the habit of taking walks around Buxton. In the two years since then, it’s begun to feel like we’ve explored every corner of the town. So it’s great to have an excuse to discover it anew, following this charming trail showcasing the originality of the town.

The Buxton Flowerpot Trail was established by Funny Wonders in 2014 and has since gone from strength to strength. They encourage households, businesses and institutions around the town to build their own flowerpot characters and display them outside their houses or premises.

This year’s theme is red, white and blue, in line with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and has brought out once again the talents of Buxtonians young and old. Given the theme, it’s inevitable that there’s a number of guardsmen on display (there’s a particularly impressive, life-size version in the window of WH Smith), and even the Queen herself appears outside the United Reformed Church.

Some people have taken a different approach – up my road there are two wild swimmer flowerpot people in blue swimming caps, and a red-white-and-blue Elton John complete with mop wig.

The most striking entry I’ve seen so far is a giant octopus displayed on the wall of a house on Macclesfield Road – extremely eyecatching and well realised.

I’ve only really scratched the surface of the trail so far but am looking forward to the delights it will bring over the coming weeks. And I’m also looking forward to the excuse it gives me for more ‘from my door’ exercise. Oscar Wilde once defined golf as ‘a good walk spoiled’. The Buxton Flowerpot Trail is a good walk enhanced.

Robbie Carnegie

DANCING WATER, WEATHERED STONE - The Green Man Gallery Artists

I like to go and catch up with what’s happening at the Green Man Gallery when I can, and the new show for the Fringe gave me the opportunity to do this. It’s a show where all the residents have contributed, and they have certainly covered the UK with work inspired by the land from Scotland to Cornwall via Norfolk, and of course there’s something local. Taking their inspiration from the materials for which Buxton is most famous there’s a range of styles, media and subjects here which seek to draw out what it is that fascinates us about these two ‘elements’. There are works which explore these individually and some combine them.

There are digital images of local natural hotspots – The Roaches and Rudyard Lake – from Laura Hyland and Caroline Small which take the particular realities associated with stone and water as their focus – the stillness of stone and the movement of water. At the other end of the spectrum there is the cool, abstract style of gallery newcomer Lin Cheung.

There was even a surprise in the shape of a stone sculpture of the Celtic deity Arnametia, associated with Buxton from Roman times by long-time resident Susanne Pearson, which is a style and medium she hasn’t used before. One visitor thought it reminded him of Picasso; me, I thought of Botticelli. You’ll have to make your own mind up on that one.

My favourite piece was a simple pencil drawing of the Neolithic tomb of Temple Wood in the Kilmartin valley in Argyll. In my day job I’m used to seeing drawings of sites with scales, north arrows and co-ordinates etc, so it was nice to see a simple unadulterated image for a change.

Do go along and ‘support your local artists’ as they say. Although it is a small show set inside the downstairs gallery, there is something for everyone, and more besides.

Ian Parker Heath

DERBYSHIRE OPEN EXHIBITION - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

The Derbyshire Open is one of the highlights of the calendar at the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, bringing together the talents of artists from across the county in an exhibition that evokes striking images of the place in we live.

From young children to seasoned professionals, all levels of accomplishment are represented, working in a range of styles, ranging from sculpture and felting to more traditional paintings.

There is a competitive element to the exhibition and judges have picked their favourite, but one of the joys of this exhibition is that anyone attending will also have ones that they prefer.

Ones that stood out for me were the oil painting ‘Memories of a Walk through Padley Gorge’ by Nicholas Granville, ‘Just Another Day in the Office’, a hand-drawn digital print by Kathryn Herold and Sandra Orme’s dramatic pastel ‘Sunset Over The Moors’.

I was also taken by three slightly more abstract representations of landscape, which all conveyed their sense of place through bold colour – Judy Gilley’s gouache ‘Gibbet Rock and Early Purple Orchids’, Vicky Prince’s mixed-media ‘Along the Edge’ and Peter Scholey’s acrylic, ‘Sunset at Arbor Low’.

Amongst the young people’s works featured at the top of the stairs, I was especially drawn to 11-year-old Imogen’s mixed media representation of the Opera House and 5-year-old Rose’s ‘Green Garden’.

There’s also the fun of seeing Sue Prince’s egg tempera rendition of The Great Dome Art Fair, in which individuals attending the event in 2019 coloured in the character they felt most looked like them. In a Buxton version of ‘Where’s Wally’ you can look out for this reviewer!

The 2022 Derbyshire Open once again doesn’t disappoint as an excellent showcase of the county’s talent.

Robbie Carnegie

FROM THE LAND OF THE GREAT SPIRIT - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

This unique exhibition in the downstairs corridor at the museum represents the last chance to see a selection of Native American and First Nations artefacts before they are repatriated to indigenous communities in the United States and Canada.

It is exciting to see an actual tomahawk or a stone-headed war club, the latter also known rather graphically as a “skull cracker”, or to admire some beautifully beaded moccasins or embroidered gloves, but in every case it is the well-researched explanatory notes that reveal the true and complex story behind each item. The tomahawk is as much an all-purpose tool as a weapon and was also used by the European colonials with whom the Native Americans traded. The skull cracker on display turns out to be for ceremonial purposes. The glass beads on the moccasin were introduced by arriving Europeans - before that Native American beadwork used stone, shell quills and carved bone. The gloves were made by women for men, the idea being that after shooting an animal, the hunter would drop his unique glove beside it. Afterwards each wife would make sure she only butchered the bison next to her husband’s distinctive glove.

There are some beautiful historic photographs allowing us to stare into the eyes of indigenous residents of Canada and the United States from the very elderly to a tiny baby. We also get to hear how the objects on display came from the former Derbyshire School Library Service which was set up in 1936 to bring museum-quality materials to children’s classrooms in rural areas. Some were gifts to European settlers and travellers, but some were taken by force. Repatriation will help towards righting past wrongs. A representative of the Haida First Nation has movingly told the organisers: “You and your little museum are the first in England and the EU to ever repatriate back to the Haida Gwaii. Small museums can set big precedents.”

Stephanie Billen


Art Up Close are back for a second year in the trees of Pavilion Gardens, with an all-new cast of sculptures to discover.

Entering the park from the Serpentine I soon came across Katherine Simpsons ‘100 Chances’, delicate clusters of ceramic seeds ready to take their chances in the world, as are Debbie Nairn’s ‘Pods’ which are designed to work with the tree’s own ecosystem, angled to collect water or provide shade, or even a nest. The porcelain pods have a natural look and will bear repeated viewing over July to see how the interaction with the tree progresses.

Close by there is the odd sight of an octopus made from plastic bottles in a tree, artist Brigitte Watkinson has created ‘Poly Esta’ to draw attention to the amount of plastic in the oceans - the plastic doesn’t belong there either. There are yet more unusual fun creatures to be found in the trees, ‘Colin the Covid Corvid’ is keeping a wary eye out for that bug, while a colourful ‘Boggle Eyed Snarfling’ is checking out our world with his extra eyes. Both by Alison Rose, they’ll be fun for the kids to find.

Also featuring many eyes is the anthropomorphic ‘Eye Spy Satellite’ by Gill Nicholas, reminding us just how much surveillance we’re under these days. I found it rather fun, which is disconcerting, but perhaps indicates why we accept the intrusiveness of modern technology. Pure unadulterated fun is what Andrea Lewis’s ‘Playing Out’ is all about, this bright and joyful sculpture is the most obvious one in the gardens (you can find it for yourselves!) as Poppy swings from a trapeze reminding us to let our kids, and maybe ourselves, have fun out there.

One last artwork can be found down in the Pump Room, 'The Sirin' is a beautiful stained glass piece created by April Pebbles, so perfectly attuned to its surroundings that at first I thought it must always be there down by the well at the back of the room. It was a lovely conclusion to my walk around the exhibition.

Stephen Walker

MURDER STONE - Uncanny Stitch

The Murder Stone is an exhibition by four talented artist friends who together have taken the name Uncanny Stitch. The experience starts (I say experience because it really is) the moment you arrive at the Green Man Gallery. Visitors are drawn upstairs by a breadcrumb trail of book covers and spines.

Arriving at the exhibition room you are asked to read the story before entering. As you would expect from the group's name, the story is an eerie tale set in the wilds of the Peak. Written by Kate Aimson it is the source material for everything on display. Kate's three collaborators, Selina Ayse, Julie Howse and Teresa Wilson have all interpreted the story in their own unique way. You enter a fairy-tale space full of atmosphere, where embroidery, quilting, sculpture and poetry all sit, side by side. There is a film - do take your smart phone if you have one so you can scan the QR code to view it.

This exhibition is perfect for anyone who enjoys folk tales or eerie stories. The standard of each piece on display is first rate and deserves to be viewed slowly and thoughtfully. I didn't know what to expect beforehand, but came away feeling inspired. The Uncanny Stitch ladies are hopefully planning future collaborations and I for one hope that these become a reality.

April Irwin


An empty space high above the Pavilion Gardens foyer becomes the arena for an aerial acrobat in Lindsey Piper’s exciting new installation.

She was inspired to create her high-flying figure after attending a masterclass with sculptor Andrew Logan and it is great to see Scintillation in situ, her “skin” a dazzling mosaic of triangles made out of DVDs. The apparent near-redundancy of this medium is called into question when we see how it can be used to create something so beautiful, its rainbow-qualities made apparent by the play of light. The acrobat itself is full of grace and dynamic in several ways. The work itself does actually move at times but equally the shifting light also ensures that it never seems completely still. Add to this the observer’s own movement round the object and some strange illusions can come into play as if she is following us around! It is a good idea to go up the stairs to see her from every angle.

The last few years have seen an explosion of sculpture at Buxton Fringe - be sure also to check out Art Up Close’s I Spy with My Little Eye Sculpture Trail outside in the Pavilion Gardens throughout the Fringe.

Stephanie Billen


This exhibition, housed in one room on the ground floor of the Museum & Art Gallery, lives up to its tag line. We are taken on a journey of exploration where cultures fuse and textures suggest further horizons. Sarah Keast skilfully uses a range of media and mark making to produce images, mostly in earthy ochre tones to express transition, possibility, and common ground with more than a nod to the wild creature within the viewer. There are thresholds to undefined places, recognisable images, and fantastic beings, all inspired by the Peak District landscape and items from the collection in the museum.

The exhibition is complimented by a small book, The Liminal Land, by the same artist.

Jean Ball

WINTER WOODS - Geoff Shoults

Tucked downstairs in Jo Royle Outdoor is a little gem of a photography exhibition by Buxtonian Geoff Shoults. His awards include UK Mountain Photo of the Year and Art of Travel Award at the Travel Photographer of the Year, but here he turns his attention to the local landscape in winter.

When many of us were wrapped up warm in front of the TV, Geoff was out enjoying his favourite time of year and charting the course of winter across local woodlands including Corbar, Lightwood and Brown Edge.

There are a couple of wonderful pictures of snow falling, most strikingly in an image of a blizzard moving through Brown Edge, the snow is lying, the fat snowflakes blurred against the crisp images of trees coated with snow on the windward side. In the same woods, ‘Brown Edge Blue Light’ appears to be the calm after the storm, the beautiful light is captured perfectly and you can sense the silence and stillness in the snow.

Other pictures from the local woodlands capture the intricate patterns made by a heavy frost and vibrant colours returning as the snow melts and drips from pine leaves. My particular highlight combines a gorgeous splash of colour against a misty snowy background in Corbar woods.

There are a couple of superbly stark images from Arctic Norway, but the overriding impression is how fortunate we are to have these beautiful woods on our doorstep, and a photographer as talented as Geoff Shoults to capture them.

Stephen Walker