Visual Arts Reviews

THE DERBYSHIRE OPEN 2019 - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

The Derbyshire Open is a staple part of the Buxton Fringe programme, an annual competition and accompanying exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, showing the best in amateur and professional talent in the county.

Artists were asked to base their work on what Derbyshire meant to them, and this was interpreted widely by the entrants. The winner was Carl Longmate with his vibrant oil painting, ‘A Winter Walk’, but I actually preferred his other work, ‘Festival Town’ featuring a lively morris dancer outside Buxton Opera House. Other works that particularly caught my eye were Kathryn Herold’s ‘The Daily Grind’, hand drawn on giclée print, Vincent Cooma’s arrestingly colourful ‘Windows’, Tracey Keeping’s allegorical ‘The Clipping of St Mary’s’ and Sarah Parkin’s watercolour landscape ‘Wirksworth from the Puzzle Gardens’.

I’m always pleased also to see the work of younger artists and I was particularly taken with Martha Blue’s ‘A flurry of colour in Kinder Pennine’ and Jack Miller’s ‘A Wonderful World’.

Not all from this selection are necessarily the winners or those commended by the competition’s judges, but part of the pleasure of the Derbyshire Open is picking your own favourites. This year’s selection seemed especially strong.

Robbie Carnegie

BUXTON ART TRAIL 2019: THE BUXTON BIENNALE! - Buxton Art Trail

The Buxton Art Trail (BAT) has moved from relatively small-scale beginnings to become one of the essential elements of the Buxton Fringe (at least every two years when it is staged). Taking in some of the regular exhibitions in venues such as Buxton Museum & Art Gallery and the Green Man, but also in people’s homes and other less traditional venues, it is a great celebration of local art (as well as global works from Scandinavia, Iran and New Zealand) in all its forms, as well as being a very agreeable walk.

Where else, for example, could you have a display in the window of Potters clothing store, and have an interesting conversation with the artist responsible for it (Amanda Foy), standing on the corner to explain her work and hand out cards? Or a visit to someone’s house, where offered a glass of wine at 11 o’clock, you could be treated to handmade lampshades incorporating pressed flowers and handmade poetry books (by More Care Design Collective) and bronze trees (from Lucinda Barrett)?

With so much on offer, we weren’t able to reach all the venues, but particular favourites were Caroline Chouler-Tissier’s latest collection, Genetic Inheritance (exploring structures of bones and tumour cells), the collection of different artists and craftspeople at Take Ten @2, the various artists exhibited at St Anne’s Church Hall (notably Rachel Chadwick’s jewellery), Carl Longmate’s vibrant paintings in his house, accompanied by interesting chat about his creative process, and Hugo Edwardes’ Pictures of War, an exhibit which felt very different from others (alongside Catherine Serjeant’s Images of New Zealand.

That is the beauty of the Art Trail. Every venue holds a surprise, and shows the breadth of talent in the area, and also of forms in which art can take. It is also a great showcase for artists, whether established or taking a first step on the commercial ladder. It is a testament to the hard work of Linda Rolland and the Buxton Art Trail team in bringing this event together so successfully every two years.

Maria & Robbie Carnegie

THE BUXTON SPA PRIZE EXHIBITION 2019 - The Buxton Spa Prize

As you might imagine with such a title, images of Buxton abound. Not necessarily a good or bad thing, you just have to accept there are going to be a lot of them. The trick for the artists is to try and find a novel way of representing the town, or some singular aspect of it. That challenge has a few success this year.

This year’s winner was ‘From the Slopes’ by Simon Roderick, but as we know art in whatever shape or form it comes in is entirely subjective matter in the end. The winning work didn’t catch my eye, but nearby a piece by Tracey Coverley did. ‘Turners Fountain’ was in a medium – felt - which normally doesn’t grab me, but this silvery grey image did. Another silver-grey piece also caught my eye. ‘That’s what you see’ by David Lowther was an unusual look at The Crescent, a little bit of a ‘warts ‘n all’ look the what is set to be the star of the town soon. For me the standout work was by local artist Andrea Joseph. ‘Up on The Board Walk’ is a very different view of a well-known and much depicted part of town. As I spend a lot of my time looking at landscapes, this one rather appealed to me.

As always, there’s something for everyone in the Spa Prize show, and if you are taking in all the visual art shows in this year’s Fringe this should be part of your itinerary. Saying that, you can pop upstairs and see the Teens & Children show too, where the town’s youngsters have some of the work on show. Budding artists aplenty it seems, and I particularly liked Alice Lee’s take on the Opera House. One to watch?

Ian Parker Heath

2019 ART EXHIBITION - Burbage Art Group

Something of a Buxton Fringe institution, the Burbage Art Group once again opened their doors to visitors, giving a warm welcome to the 2019 exhibition.

The Group is clearly a nurturing environment, giving artists of much experience or none the chance to develop and hone their skills. From the youngest member at 13 and all the way up through the ages, each is obviously allowed to develop their own style, their own favoured medium.

Art is a very subjective thing, and it’s impossible to list everyone, but I was particularly taken with Hilary McLynn’s colourful ‘Allotment’, new artist Mike Jackson’s lively watercolour landscapes, Annie Osborne’s affecting miniature collages, ‘Memories’, Frances Boaler’s characterful sculpture, ‘Twa Corbies (Two Crows)’, young artist Grace Critchlow’s mixed-media fish and animals, Stephanie Osborne’s arresting acrylic and oil beachscape, and the ‘Buxton Community School Artist’, Amy Sheppard, with a moving use of negative space. But there really is something for everyone in this exhibition.

The welcome was extended to tea and cakes, and a quiz to allow children to explore the event in their own way, a nice idea which says much for the Group’s inclusive nature. The Group meets on Wednesday evenings and no doubt would be a very positive environment for artists of all ages.

Robbie Carnegie

UNTITLED, THE DEEP SLEEP - Hampton-Studio

One of the great things about Buxton Fringe is that it sometimes throws you a complete curve ball. Something that you never thought you’d be likely to watch. Such an event is Untitled, The Deep Sleep, a performance art installation by Yulia Hampton. A structure has been erected in the Pavilion Gardens – a large box, bedecked with screens and projectors, on which a woman lies curled up in a sleeping bag.

As Yulia Hampton says in her introductory notes, sleep is when we are at our most vulnerable, a very intimate situation, which she seeks to put in public spaces. The Pavilion Gardens is one of her more relaxed locations – she more often positions herself in city centres, on traffic islands and the like. Indeed, in Buxton she will be moving to a new location, in the Market Place just as the fairground comes to town. One can only salute her bravery!

But it’s not just Yulia who can experience this. Around her stage/bed are ten small mattresses, with their own blanket and pillows, as well as a cuddly rat, so visitors can lie down and join her.

The installation took a long time to set up, but there was something intriguing about seeing it come together. Once Yulia was in position I returned and we had a good chat about the work and how her life brought her to this point. Although the Pavilion Gardens might have seemed a relaxing place to position herself, the lights of her screens brought out the midges, big-time. Sleep was impossible. Neither was the ability to watch for more than about 10 minutes.

With this in mind, Yulia is intending to move to her Market Place location earlier than planned, where rampaging carnival-goers will be less daunting than the biting insects. I’ll certainly be popping back. It’s the sort of event you can pop out to at any point and get something out of, a brave curiosity that audiences/ participants can all get something out of.

Robbie Carnegie

VISIT PAULA’S PAD - Paula Hobdey

Part of Buxton Art Trail but also open on 12, 14, 15 and 19-21 July, this quirky little exhibition offers a fascinating mixture of paintings and collages plus some dinky decorated glass pots, yours for a donation.

Paula has a love of nature so you will see uplifting scenes such as intricate bird portraits and a buttercup meadow with horses seemingly moving right out of the picture towards you. She also likes to experiment producing pieces such as Starburst, a bright explosion of colours and texture, and, great for children, a series of blingy, fantastical birds including a "Periscope" bird with an extendable neck and a "Grandeped" bird with massive feet to stamp on its prey. The birds are collage pieces and even in her acrylics, Paula will often sneak in some surprising elements, a painting of orange flowers featuring actual poppy stamens (for a moment I suspected a few spiders might have lost legs!).

This is indeed Paula's pad and it is great to meet the artist in her home and enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit or cake with her. The art is all around - even on a kitchen cupboard! For an added bonus, her garden and that of her neighbour are full of large metal dinosaur sculptures created by Andy Hill, who made the railway guard figure at Buxton station.

Paula's pad is clearly marked and is off Macclesfield Road just after the almshouses on the right if you are coming from the centre of town. Note it is 9 Wye Head not Wye Head Close. It is a lovely spot and makes a nice breather if you are taking in other BAT venues nearby.

Stephanie Billen

SMILE - Lindsey Piper

They seek it here, they seek it there … Smile is an art exhibit designed to pop up in unexpected places. You never really know where it will be – a challenge for a reviewer.

I remember when, in the 1970s, Smileys were everywhere; a yellow, circular image, designed to lighten the mood of the hardest heart. Apparently, though some think it has its roots amongst the Hittites of the ancient world. Over the succeeding years, the image has sometimes taken on different tones, from Roger Hargreaves’ eponymous Mr Happy, to the sinister, blood-spattered badge on the cover of Alan Moore’s graphic novel, Watchmen, to the blissed-out emblem of Acid House, to the ubiquitous happy emoji. Certainly its sunny face taps into something primal in us all, and it’s that force that artist Lindsey Piper taps into.

For the first few days of the Fringe, a Wandering Smiley’s reassuring features will be grinning at you from the bridge by the Wetherspoon’s pub. Made from a recycled barrel lid and a bicycle wheel rim, it is powered by a solar panelled battery pack so that its smile lights up at night. That said, I still haven’t found it … but it’s good to know it’s around somewhere! I guess we’re all looking for happiness, so maybe the elusive nature of this Smiley is a comment in itself.

There’s also the more permanent ‘Tower of Smileys’ on the traffic island by St John’s Church. A totem-pole like structure, with multi-faced Smileys pointing in all directions, it’s well situated to provide a welcome to visitors to Buxton, or alternatively to send them away with a smile on their face.

In the current times of division and acrimonious argument, there’s something still naively optimistic about the Smiley as a logo and it’s this that Lindsey Piper’s cheerful exhibit taps into.

Robbie Carnegie

MOUNTAIN AND LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY - Geoff Shoults

This exhibition’s setting (a basement room at the Jo Royle outdoor shop) is highly fitting; a cool, air-conditioned oasis greets as you venture down the small, secretive stairs into a partially empty room redolent of the landscapes these images feature - open, vacant, free, almost lonely. A range of photographs adorning the walls as you descend detail scenes familiar to the Buxton native and yet the image that directly faces is of a Norwegian woodland. It is this variety that sustains interest; within a single room the Himalayas, Norway, Scotland and the Peak District are explored. And within these different environments there is further variation, some are what may be unfairly dismissed as cliché landscape photography, those postcard worthy scenes that in their own right are interesting and valuable. But, placed in conjunction with more experimental, abstract images, they become an excellent contrast and highlight the many lenses through which landscapes can be seen. Snowy woodlands appear as almost painted images and trees become charcoal swathes purposefully drawn onto a white canvas; two images of rushing water are ones that particularly stand out for their original and intriguing use of light and form and reflection. If an interest is not held, landscape photography can be boring; here it isn’t.

Unfortunately I did not manage to catch Shoults himself, however I was informed he is usually there on Sundays and for anyone wishing to understand more about the aims, technical aspects and personal experience of landscape photography I would recommend a visit on such a day as factual detail about the images, besides their price, is thin on the ground.

Despite the retail environment, staff made no reference to potential purchases, (although the stick figure like explorers that feature in some of Shoults images did inspire a newly renewed urge for outdoor adventure) nor did they show any overbearing interest, meaning the display is highly suited to peaceful contemplation. Any attendee is able to spend as little or as long as they like in the exhibit rendering it the perfect place to spend a few minutes, to take a break from an exciting and busy day and to remember the dramatic countryside that is so close by.

Anna O’Boyle

FRINGE40 - 40 YEARS OF BUXTON FRINGE - Buxton Festival Fringe

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s the 40th Buxton Festival Fringe this year, and the Fringe organisers have celebrated this anniversary with an exhibition at the Green Man Gallery. It’s a nostalgic trip back through the Fringe’s history, a handful of framed exhibits full of pictures, pamphlets and ephemera. From the first year, where the Fringe programme was a single photocopied sheet – mainly containing music events – to the 70-page tome of this year, the exhibition makes clear how far the Fringe has come.

As someone who’s been involved in it for 15 years, I found the images and captions, many of friends and memories past, a charming and smile-enducing journey. Whether it’s the changing look of the programme, or the array of badges (my favourite was the sometimes controversial sheep badge of a number of years ago), or whether it’s the list of acts who went on to greater success post-Buxton, there will be something to stir the memories of the dedicated Fringe goer or the casual visitor. In the end, it’s a celebration of an institution kept alive by the love and commitment of the people who run it.

Robbie Carnegie

A CELEBRATION OF THE CRESCENT - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

With things moving apace at the actual Crescent, it seems timely that the Museum and the Crescent Heritage Trust have bought us this collection of works all featuring the star of the town – The Crescent. Of course, the building itself has hardly changed during the course of its lifetime, but that hasn’t stopped various artists, professional and amateur, trying to capture the glory of John Carr’s work.

Rather than dwell on the architectural merits of the building, the images of The Crescent are more interesting in other ways, for example, the different media and approaches taken to the subject matter. From linocut to pencil drawings, artists have tried different ways to portray the subject. Which is your favourite is down to your taste. For me the main interest lay in what the artists captured of the landscape around this dominant structure. Sometimes things seem to be omitted, like the Old Hall, which pre-dates The Crescent. Did the artist do this deliberately? Who knows.

The exhibition is on until the 24th, so be sure to include it in your look at the host of arts shows in the 40th Fringe!

Ian Parker Heath

ACTS OF MAKING - The Green Man Gallery Resident Artists

Held at the Green Man Gallery, the drinks flowed at the ‘Acts of Making’ launch exhibition, where art lovers had the chance to mingle with these talented resident artists. A relaxed informal atmosphere meant that we could all leisurely appreciate a sample of their unique creations and explore the artistic process from conception through to the final piece.

This is a beautiful display of work with pieces to appeal to all tastes:

*Watercolours incorporating poetry by Charlie Collins

*Collography and prints by Dawn Fetherstone

*Pastel portraits, sketchbooks, ceramics and a terracotta bust by Susan Eversfield

*Ceramic mosaics by Jo Spencer

*Acrylic and oil paintings incorporating collage by Suzanne Pearson

*Watercolour bee series by Fiona Jubb

*Waterfall silk painting and resin topped tables by Mandy Collins

*Candid photography of the Gallery’s youth artists, musicians, dance and theatre by Caroline Small

*Ceramic chimes of white earthenware and driftwood by Jayne Townsend (also keep your eyes peeled for ‘Bepe’ the gorgeous paper mâché and wire mouse)

Make sure you explore further work by these artists within the adjoining exhibition rooms. My personal favourites were Jayne Townsend’s embroidery on canvas, Charlie Collins’ Puffin paintings, Dawn Featherstone’s sea and landscape oil on canvas, and Caroline Small’s ‘The Avenue’ landscape photography.

There really is something for every pocket, so just remember to bring your wallet so that you can snap up a stunning original piece of art to take pride of place within your own home.

This free exhibition is held at the Green Man Gallery and runs until 24 July, 10.30-5.30. Further information: thegreenmangallery.com, 01298 937375. The Green Man Gallery is a not-for-profit organisation managed by its resident artists and a team of dedicated community volunteers.

Karen Wain-Pimlott