Visual Arts Reviews

BUXTON PHOTO CHALLENGE 2023 - High Peak Photography Club

The High Peak Photography Club meets in Whaley Bridge and hosts a beautiful website with some truly stunning images. This, their annual competition, is open to anyone who is interested. The task is simple in nature, but offers a wide scope for people of all ages, equipment and experience to have a go.

The challenge is to take six photos in six hours in order of the themes given on the instruction sheet you are given when you pay your entry fee (Orange, and Rough were two examples this year).

On arrival, the reviewer was left standing at the desk for quite a while one person worked on the computer and another two talked, which might have been off-putting to some. Later in the day with more people there, the atmosphere did feel buzzy and more friendly. A great idea for a competition, a lovely way to spend some time in Buxton and if you like photography, a fun way to spend a day.

Julie Eastdown


The Peak District attracts, inspires, and is home to an impressive range of creative and talented Artisans who make a wonderful array of beautiful things. The cream work together as the Peak District Artisans to show, market and sell their work. Each year the Great Dome Art & Design Fair is their largest event filling the vast floor of the Devonshire Dome.

This year we are treated to the beautifully displayed creations of 35 creatives who produce everything from tiny precious jewellery pieces to massive painted wall hangings. Many of the artists are demonstrating their craft and the atmosphere is surprisingly calm for such a big show. There are ceramics, glass, woven and embroidered textiles, prints, photography, and paintings. There are subtle shades and bold colours, simple elegance and rich layers in this impressive array of high quality locally produced art and design.

The Great Dome Art & Design Fair 2023 is open Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd July 10am – 4:30pm and well worth the £3 entry fee to feast your eyes. Warning: you may be tempted to take home some very reasonably priced art purchased direct from the person who made it.

Jean Ball


What else should a librarian do in her lunchbreak put pop down and see a visual art event that’s made up of images cut out of books?

Hugo Edwardes has taken old copies of encyclopaedias – different editions of The Book of Knowledge from the 1930s, 1950s and 2000. He has methodically “released the images from the pages” by cutting them out. Thus each becomes a painting, a piece of art in its own right. The images are displayed between the boards of the original book and you’re invited to explore and handle them. There is a slideshow running of the pictures, which flick through every 4 seconds.

And playing constantly is a soundtrack compiled by Chris Robinson. He’s taken sounds – some from nature, mechanical, and created; the wind whistling through a gate, the sound of children at a campsite in Suffolk. Three tracks run simultaneously with five sections to each. They’re slightly overlapping and changing every four seconds to match the picture. The three tracks are different lengths so as they loop the sound experience changes and becomes a unique composition. Ask Chris to show you his beautifully drawn layout of the music – a piece of art in its own right. The soundscape enhances and never detracts. It’s easy to talk over it or just to sit back; look and listen.

You’re challenged with some of the images; how different cultures are shown, the often-stereotypical depiction of women and men. But this is part of the point. It makes you think and discuss. It is also beautiful – many of the drawn images, especially of science and nature. Some of the images still have their titles; again not always how we would describe things these days – an engraving of Henry VII has the caption “Wise but mean.” I did smile at the “Goldfish with bulging eyes” caption.

There is a wonderfully tactile element in handling the images from different editions – the paper is different in look and feel. It’s a reflection of history and culture. It’s an exercise in how we present and discover information and knowledge across the last century.

Hugo talked about the mindfulness of the process of cutting out the images. The precision of lining up the ruler and the knife. Dealing with the consequences of going off a line or cutting in the wrong place – sometimes repairing an image. Making choices about which side of the page to preserve the images from. A process to lose yourself in during dark winter months.

Books do have a shelf life – not every book can or should be preserved. By giving them a new lease of life or using them to challenge and inform us in different ways Edwardes is facilitating their ongoing purpose (but please don’t cut up books you borrow from your library – we usually want them back in once piece!).

I love how the exhibit touches on different senses – sight, sound and touch. I enjoyed the conversations and discussions it promoted, the soundscape and slideshow ever-present making this an immersive experience. It’s one I encourage you to create a little time for.

Maria Carnegie

ART IN THE OCTAGON - High Peak Artists

High Peak Artists have been collaborating for 25 years making high quality artisan creations available in and around Buxton and supporting the careers of emerging and established local artists. 30 or so of the 45 High Peak Artists have set up their displays in The Octagon where most are also demonstrating their craft for the public to enjoy seeing the process.

The group run the ‘Gallery in the Gardens’ where some of their work is available throughout the year and you may spot one or two who were at Art in The Crescent over the weekend. However, the bigger space of the Octagon has allowed each artist to make a bigger bolder display including new originals and a wider range of items. There are also some mew Members of the collaborative group who’s work you may not have seen before, so well worth a browse – admission is free.

Buying art from the artist who made it is one of the most rewarding forms of shopping because you know you are getting something unique and special, and that you are supporting a real living artist. These people have created a range of ceramics, jewellery, photography, glass and mosaics, paintings, prints, textiles, turned wood, and more, and offer them at reasonable prices. If you like affordable, non-standard, hand made art, objects and gifts you will enjoy this three-day artisan market running until Wed 12th.

Jean Ball

ART AT THE CRESCENT - Peak District Artisans

For over 20 years the Peak District Artisans have been showcasing and supporting local creative individuals through high quality events and communications. This event in the Assembly Rooms in Buxton Crescent is no exception. Roughly 18 individual artists have their work on display, most of which is for sale, and all of which is beautifully presented in this exceptional venue.

The work includes painters and print makers, jewellers, ceramic artists, and mixed media. The prices for original work are very reasonable, and many of the artists have small affordable items like greetings cards for sale alongside the larger originals. The range of styles and themes, whilst strongly influenced by our glorious local landscape, is very varied. Indeed, it is unlikely you will like everything, but there might be at least one artwork that you just have to take home with you.

Peak District Artisans also host the Great Dome Art Fair in the Devonshire Dome 21 – 23 July where a larger selection of the 50 or so artists in the group will be displaying and selling their work. Quite a few of the artists in the Assembly Rooms will not be in the Dome, so it is well worth attending both events.

These events are a cut way above a craft fair. With admission to the Assembly Room event free, and in such a stunning venue, if you are in town at all over these three days, do pop in and feast your eyes.

Jean Ball

ADVENTURES IN ART - The Green Man Resident Artists

The Green Man artists can be guaranteed to bring something fresh to the Fringe and this year they have created a small but extremely stimulating exhibition downstairs in the main gallery.

If you think you know the work of their resident artists, think again. Here they are venturing outside their comfort zones to try new materials and explore new subject matter. Particularly eye-catching are Chris Ray’s large self-portraits that seem to leap out at us in a very three-dimensional, slightly threatening way. It is a huge contrast to his landscapes, which can also be seen on this floor. Vying for our attention are Laura Hyland’s large-scale charcoal figure drawings. Speedily created during online life drawing classes, all against the clock, they are full of vigour and reflect her experimentation with continuous line drawing, blind drawing, drawing to music and depicting dancers in motion - though the ballerina in untidy repose is probably the most striking of them all.

Suzanne Pearson’s lively foray into still life injects some welcome Mediterranean colour as do Mara Edwards’s busy abstracts, completed in acrylic and mixed media instead of her usual oils. Exciting use of colour is also a major component of the work of Karl Robinson, a former factory worker who told me that all his art is an adventure: “Everything is out of my comfort zone because anything I try is something new”. His paint-pouring creates fascinating effects on 3D objects as well as canvases but we also see his experiments in other media as he investigates pattern-making, both deliberate and accidental.

Photographer Caroline Small shares her moving journey back to drawing having been thoroughly put off at school. Working on a smaller scale is Costa Alecrim, a watercolourist here using discs of wood as a new base to create charming works celebrating the natural world. Dawn Featherstone, better known for her paintings and drawings, has meanwhile ventured into collage, creating a landscape with an environmental message.

The artists here really have shown courage with Geoff Chilton trying to express his Christian faith in two atmospheric paintings. He has also combined landscape painting and pottery in some large ceramics, which alongside some sculptures from Amanda O’Neill, were not yet on display on preview night but will add a welcome extra dimension to the exhibition. I was able to see Amanda’s new abstracts and was fascinated to read her account of how as a detail-focused painter and printmaker she has learnt to silence her critical inner voice and gain a sense of freedom by creating works for this show.

This is an exhibition that is particularly effective if you take the time to see some of the resident artists’ other works displayed in the gallery. That will make you really appreciate how much they are experimenting here. Interestingly, this show is also one that takes its viewers out of their comfort zones. Some of the works are themselves disturbing or disrupting but it is also disconcerting for us to consider how much we want our familiar artists to experiment and even whether we have the bravery to get creative and venture into new territory ourselves.

Stephanie Billen


There’s still a month to go before the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival returns to Buxton – but anticipation is already growing thanks to this year’s Flowerpot Trail...

Over the last week or so, a whole cast of gondoliers, yeomen, Japanese courtiers and Penzance pirates have popped up in gardens, streets and shop windows across town, in tribute to the duo’s popular comic operas.

Take a stroll down any street and the chances are you’ll come across a display of recycled flowerpots, decked out in kimonos, pirate stripes or guards uniform – plus a whole lot more besides.

The Buxton Flowerpot Trail, now in its tenth year, was founded by the Funny Wonders arts group and has become a popular feature of the Fringe. This year features more than 30 entries, stretching from Macclesfield Old Road in the south, right up to Brown Edge Road in the north, with a whole cluster of creations to discover around the town centre. Pick up a map from the Pump Room, Poole’s Cavern, the Green Man Gallery, or downloaded from the Funny Wonders website.

Some of the most eye-catching window displays include a life-size gondolier in WH Smith (Spring Gardens) – complete with ten-foot pole – and an elegant Japanese lady, with parasol, in Scrivener’s bookshop (High Street).

Outside the Pump Room, Buxton Crescent Heritage Trust has created a beautifully executed ship’s captain (HMS Pinafore?), while the Opera House has chosen the Mikado’s three little maids from school.

Local families have done a great job too (though, disappointingly, there were a couple of no-shows when we did our tour). We loved the eclectic display outside Green Lane Nursery; Yum-Yum, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing on a plant trough in Brown Edge Road; and a farmer, complete with cow, pig and chickens on a windowsill in Dale Road.

There's more yet to discover, so we’ll still be wandering round the streets of Buxton, humming catchy G&S classics, when the Festival arrives!

Lesley Caddy

STITCHED UP! - Tracey Coverley

Tracey Coverley is a Whaley Bridge-based artist, specializing in textile art, and this exhibition clearly demonstrates the skill and wit she brings to the medium.

Influenced by black-and-white British cinema of the 50s, which informs the intricately rendered images on display here, demonstrating a level of detail and tonal variation which brings a realism to the works. Her use of thread is especially effective, with raw edges deliberately left in to add texture to the lived-in faces depicted here. This is especially so in images of a haunted-looking Dennis Hopper and a haggard John Hurt as Winston Smith in Nineteen-Eighty-Four.

There’s a series of reproductions of NME covers from the 1980s, featuring the likes of The Clash, The Jam and David Bowie, cover text and all. There’s also slice-of-life portraits slightly reminiscent of the pictures sometimes to be found on Smiths album covers.

I was also especially taken by the artist’s bird pictures, capturing the tatty, beady eyed feral quality of a raven, a magpie, and a series of down-at-heel urban pigeons.

The wit and detail of this exhibition is definitely worthy of a visit.

Robbie Carnegie