Museum attendant Clio Flaherty has gone from being a local art student to a member of the team. One of the first exhibitions she helped to arrange also happens to the one that first gave her the opportunity to show her work. Over to you, Clio:
‘Artwork’ is an annual exhibition at Buxton Art Gallery and Museum that showcases the work of local students. This year is the 19th year of the exhibition and the levels of creativity in the final pieces continue to impress.
The display is comprised of GCSE and A-Level pieces from both Buxton Community School and St Thomas More School. The art produced in this collection is of a very high standard, encompassing a variety of different mediums and artistic techniques. The students continue to produce a wide variety of unique pieces every year. In recognition of this exceptional work, the exhibition aims to promote young talent and give the art the exposure it deserves.
On 29th November, we held a preview launch night for the exhibition. The evening was a great success, offering the opportunity to view and discuss the work in a relaxed and social setting. Pupils and their families from both schools were in attendance as well as the teaching staff who came to offer their support. Some Music students also came along to celebrate the launch by providing wonderful performances throughout the evening.
Many of the students whose work has been displayed in previous ‘Artwork’ exhibitions have gone on to pursue careers in the arts and the exhibition hopes to encourage this decision and inspire other young people to follow in these footsteps. The enthusiasm of the students is reflected in the final pieces they have produced and it is important that this plays an important role in the local community.
Museum Attendant Nikki Anderson probes deeper into a current exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery:
Within the 11 months that I have been working at The Buxton Museum and Art Gallery this has probably been the most interesting and thought-provoking art exhibition I have seen here at the museum. In my opinion Steve Gresty’s photography exhibition captures the beauty of the landscape in and around Tunstead Quarry near Buxton.
I was lucky enough to chat to Steve about his work and ask him a few questions about how he became interested in Limestone quarrying as a subject matter for his photography.
Steve first became interested in Limestone quarrying whilst studying for an MA in Film and Photography at Derby University. Influenced by his passion for the American road photography of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, He had been engaged in a photography project focusing on the landscape and topography of major roads and the traffic that travels those routes. He tells me that whilst photographing A6 road through the Derbyshire he became curious about the high number of aggregate lorries and carbonate tankers toing and froing along this stretch of road. He investigated the source of this specialist heavy traffic and unveiled an industrial site on another level! Tunstead Quarry is the largest producer of high purity industrial limestone in Europe with 5.5 milllion tonnes extracted each year.
Steve tells me how he quickly became fascinated in the huge scale of limestone quarrying and how the process unveiled various shrouds of hidden beauty within the man-altered landscape. A reoccurring question that Steve kept asking himself was “why is it that limestone is extracted in such massive quantities?!!!! Within the exhibition, Steve explains this by highlighting our incessant desires for consumer items and conveniences such as building material, glass and food stuffs such as fortified bread and cereal – all products that either contain or utilise pure limestone products within their production. Steve tells me that the reason for using polaroid imagery was that he wanted to reference the throw-away culture we are now accustomed to in this modern age.
Alongside Steve’s polaroid photographs are an amazing collection of stand out photographic works that capture the emotive feelings about this particular subject matter. The journey of the limestone from land to consumer product is well-documented through his photography and demonstrates the four shrouds that the project revealed, from the initial shroud of beauty of the rock itself, the shrouds of human intervention and technology, through to shroud of ‘mother nature’ returning the quiet and peaceful landscape where nature’s colours re-emerge.
I asked Steve “What obstacles did you face whilst photographing in the quarry?”
“Within the processing plants it was extremely dusty and I was in semi-darkness a lot of the time so lighting was tricky. Especially whilst shooting the image ‘Purification’- in that image there was a single fluorescent light in dark area which caused problems with highlights”
“I had to be chaperoned the whole time too due to health and safety because of the large scale explosions and large trucks moving about. Within the processing plants the noise from the large machinery was deafening so we had to wear ear protection. The inherent dust in the atmosphere also caused worrying issues with regard to expensive DSLR cameras”. Steve also talked about the image ‘Conveyance’, which was taken at another quarry. He explains the need to use a fast shutter speed whilst taking this photograph as the rubble was hurtling down the conveyer belt at such speed, it was the only way to capture it so that the moving rock could be seen clearly.
Obstacles aside Steve’s determination and focus enabled him to create this body of work that is both thought-provoking and aesthetically intriguing. ‘Limescape-The Shrouded Aesthetic’, which was captured over a 3 year period, is on display at the Buxton Museum and Art gallery until 16th November. Plan your visit here.
There are a series of sharp edged limestone ridges on the north side of the upper Dove Valley where, 340 million years ago coral reefs formed the edges of tropical lagoons.
Look east as you travel out of Buxton on the A53 towards Staffordshire. The leaning, sharpened peaks of Parkhouse and Chrome Hill are out of place amongst the softer landscape. And at only 425m you look down on them, a mini Switzerland sunken amongst rolling hills.
Typical of limestone landscapes these hills are riddled with a network of cave systems formed by swallets and resurgence waters which in later and colder times became places of hibernation, shelter and burial. There are notable caves; Dowel Cave was a burial place 6,000 years ago, the skulls and skeletons of ten people were found here but charcoal fragments reveal its use as far back as 11,000 years. Nearby Fox Hole cave on the pyramid shaped High Wheeldon had human bone, pottery, an axe and sharpened antler points that date the occupation of the cave at 15,000 years ago and excavations at Hitter Hill uncovered two cists and four rock cut graves. The finds are in Buxton Museum. Then there is the potholers’ favourite, the huge but hidden Owl Hole and the mysteriously deep and lesser known Etches cave, named after the family who farm the land.
The view from Hitter Hill is stunning and can easily be accessed from a footpath running behind The Quiet Woman pub at Earl Sterndale. It is this same view that features in Buxton Museum’s Wonder of the Peak gallery. From here the ridge of Parkhouse looms tall and imposing and the ‘spine’ of Chrome Hill clearly articulated giving rise to its local name ‘The Dragons Back’. Sharp sunlight adds vividity to this view when both crags cast their dense shadows into the valley accentuating the amphitheatre they create around Glutton and Dowel Dale.
Take a walk here and you will sense this area is indeed unique giving the impression that you are simultaneously in expansive space and yet closed in on all sides.
It is here in the valley of Dowel Dale that two artists, Tony Wild and Brian Holdcroft decided to plot their materials and their ideas to take their work on a journey for twelve months.
Both artists originally hail from the Potteries. Tony having worked in the arts ever since studying at Burslem School of Art in the late 1950’s, and Brian developing his art form in more or less isolation from other artists until meeting Tony over twenty years ago. Over the years their work has diverged and returned to the landscape many times.
This exhibition is a culmination of work they created throughout the year from spring 2018 to spring 2019.
Most months are inclement here in the Peaks, they needed shelter. And so they hired a barn from farmer Mr Etches to store their materials, keep a stove and when needed take refuge.
Throughout the twelve months they drew, explored, walked and photographed. Their work shows the industry of their origins both in its output and how it now appears in series and variations.
Tony’s work falls into set of images. Chrome Hill and groups of trees appear as a repeated motif in small heavily textured and expressive paintings, their energy punching out from their size. Butterflies are lost in the textures of limestone and the microscopic world of lichens are honed in and magnified into much larger paintings. And there is colour, lots of it.
He has two folders of work on display. One has sets of ink drawings created on the spot reminiscent of Japanese Sumi-e painting. The other, a series of photo montages cut from striking images of the hills, close-ups of tracks and the limestone’s lichen, again with a repeat motif. There seems to be four or more threads to Tony’s work, each with the potential to go on a journey of their own from this same central point.
Brian’s work evolves into series; growth, erosion and mapping, as he considers the layered histories of the area and the interactions between its geology, materials, animal and human activity. He uses beeswax, pigment, ink and earth in his paintings. All were created outside at Chrome Hill.
Also on display are Brian’s lead bowls- lead runs through the veins of the hills here- and note books he buried behind the barn they hired. Later exhumed they become objects in themselves that have withstood compression and change – albeit for a short period- as did the giant brachiopod fossils abundant at Chrome Hill. What do they contain?
Many would describe both artists’ work as abstract or expressive. Brian’s more so but the colours are naturalistic- and having experienced this area first hand- particular and precise. The work of both artist is lively and not always recognisable or descriptive, preferring to reveal its imagery and topography slowly as you immerse yourself into it, walk along with it, much as a landscape or a view unravels itself on a journey or by simply observing it quietly, in increments. In essence it’s all here.
The exhibition continues at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery until Saturday 23rd November 2019
More information on the artists can be found here:
Derbyshire – and the Peak District, which spills over into the neighbouring counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester and South and West Yorkshire – has one of the highest concentrations of calendar customs in the UK. These encompass everything from rituals of very ancient (possibly Pagan) origin like the well dressings and the Castleton Garland Ceremony; to more modern alternative annual sporting contests dreamed up over a pint or three down the local pub. Examples of the latter include Bonsall Hen Racing, the Mappleton Bridge Jump, the Great Kinder Beer Barrel Challenge and the World Championship Toe Wrestling Championships.
The area is peppered with ancient stone circles such as Arbor Low and the Nine Ladies, which provide a strong ritual focus into the 21st Century, drawing visitors from around the world seeking answers to their own individual questions. In addition, a number of unusual old carvings (some surprisingly explicit) can be found lurking in dark corners of the region’s churches.
Since 2015, Richard Bradley has been travelling the area documenting these strange rituals. His local history books Secret Chesterfield and Secret Matlock and Matlock Bath both feature chapters on local customs and folklore. Weird Derbyshire and Peakland includes objects from Buxton Museum’s collection relating to local folklore and customs not normally on display. You can see the exhibition, admission free, until Saturday 9 November 2019. Plan your visit here.
Nikki Anderson one of our Museum Attendants and Textile Designer has put together this blog about the 19th Century embroideries that are on display here at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.
To celebrate the reopening of ‘The Crescent’, the iconic hotel in the centre of Buxton, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery are exhibiting some rare and exciting art works dating back to the early 18th Century alongside some more contemporary paintings and prints.
The Crescent was built in 1788 and included a hotel at each end of the building and six town houses in the middle and was commissioned by ‘The 5th Duke of Devonshire’. Its purpose was to provide luxurious accommodation for visitors to the town. His vision, to create a spa town to rival Bath. Architect John Carr designed the building which was completed in 1788. It quickly became a popular visitor attraction and became a focus for artists whom would interpret ‘The Crescent’ in various art forms.
I was fascinated in particular with 3 pieces of embroidery on display. All 3 embroideries show the view of ‘The Crescent’ as the focal point from the slopes at St Ann’s Cliff. There is little known about the embroideries other than they were created in the mid 19th Century. The detail achieved in these works is incredible. You can see in the detail below the accuracy in very small detail. This photo has been magnified so the tiny stitch work can be seen.
These embroideries have been created from etchings by Henry Moore which were made in 1819. Often the etchings were printed onto the silk fabric and the free hand embroidery was used to create the painting. On close inspection it appears that most of the embroidery would have been done by machine possibly using a pantograph method to transfer the stitches. Silk became very popular in the late 18th Century and by the mid 19th Century it became a common pastime to make these silk embroideries. I love the different contrasting effects used by the satin stitch on the machine and the hand stitching using running and seeding stitch (embroidery 3) whilst still obtaining such a delicate nature to the works. The fashioning of metallic threads of the 18th century have also influenced these works alongside the popularity of satin stitch and long and short stitch. In the magnified photo below a method called ‘couching’ has been used. This is where threads are placed on the surface of the fabric and then sewn stitched on by hand or machine. If you look closely you can see where the couching has unraveled showing the loose yarn.
It is interesting to note the fact these embroideries were worked upon in only 2 or 3 shades. Black and gold and/or beige silk. This may have also been influenced by’ Blackwork’, which was developed in the 16th and 17th Century and was incredibly popular.
These incredibly beautiful pieces of embroidery are on display alongside etchings, paintings and photographs until the 1st September at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery.