Wikipedia defines artistic licence as a colloquial term used to denote the distortion of fact made by an artist to improve a piece of art. Working at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery for many years means that I have seen more paintings of Derbyshire than I’ve eaten hot dinners. The art that catches my eye is where the artist has portrayed the scenery in a way that I’ve not seen before. I have grown to admire experimentation and the artists that are brave enough to try it. This painting by Chris Joe Beard was purchased by the Friends of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery from the Derbyshire Open in 2012.
Abstract work can be controversial, prompting reactions such as “this isn’t art!” or “anybody could do that!” but I find this is rather a simplistic view of modern art that reveals more about the viewer than the artist. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course. I must confess that some non-representational art leaves me scratching my head, such as this textile by Claire de Ruiter, though it did win the Derbyshire Trophy in 2010 so it is far from unloved.
One of my favourite local artists is Gary Sampson and, for many years, this was based on the two works in the museum’s collection. I am pleased to say that Gary currently has an exhibition at the museum and we have the opportunity to see more of his work (until Monday 21 April). The exhibition is a fifty-year retrospective and Gary constantly switches from the natural to the representational but his bold shapes always manage to evoke the patchwork wilderness of Derbyshire.
Artistic licence does not necessarily result in the abstract. Painters can embellish the reality of the scene and this seems to be an approach from some of the 18th century artists in the museum’s collection. This view of the “Streights” in Dovedale is alarmingly melodramatic when compared with the actual view. Why the artist, Jonathan Boydell, chose to elaborate on what is already a remarkable scene is open to speculation. In the 18th century, travel to places like Dovedale would have been much more difficult and far fewer people would have actually laid eyes on it. In other words, artistic licence was easier to get away with!