The Chrome Hill Project

Chrome Hill is steeped in history- layers of it.

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.

 

T and B at Chrome Hill
Brian Holdcroft and Tony Wild at the barn at Chrome Hill.

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.

TREES AT PARKHOUSE HILL i
Trees at Parkhouse Hill – Tony Wild

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.

BIRD AND BARK
Bird and Bark – Tony Wild

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.

MAPPING SERIES RESPONSE X
Mapping Series: In and Around Chrome Hill – Brian Holdcroft

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?

buried book
Buried Book- Brian Holdcroft

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:

Brian Holdcroft: http://www.brianholdcroft.co.uk/

Tony Wild: https://www.artuk.org/discover/artists/wild-tony-b-1941

Gallery – Wild About Colour

Ref: DOWEL CAVE

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1011923

ETCHES CAVE

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=35279

HATCH-A-WAY CAIRN

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=32984

 

Musical stones

Back in March, during British Science Week, as part of the ongoing BM125 celebration, artist Will Hurt set up in the Wonders of the Peak gallery.

 

There,screenshot-2019-02-28-at-17.37.08 he invited visitors to play a large interactive screen, with both hands, and as many fingers as you might like, to create crystalline patterns. Colours and shaped rippled across the screen in response to our action: pulsing, fragmenting, growing, changing. Crystallisation at an accelerated rate.

Low turntable

There was also a small turntable. Here we could choose a rock, a polished stone, the sharp shards of a crystal and, rotating gently, it would be scanned and the scanned profile turned into sounds. They were strange sounds. Not sure what any of us were expecting but these sounded like slowed down voices, rumbling, grumbled mutterings, rising and falling with the shapes of their scans. A fascinating experience that had us rummaging around for new shapes to scan and wanting a second turntable to see if we could play with those stone voices and, building an exchange, listen to the ancient, slow conversations of stones

 

At the end of the week, musician Oliver Payne joined Will and gathering the assorted “conversations” of the week, he improvised a performance, the music of stones.

 

Listen to Oliver’s performance HERE

 

This was an intriguing piece of work, both Will and Oliver’s. I have a background in geology and am used to handling rocks and finding ways of telling their long slow stories through poetry and dance. There were lovely firsts here for me. The speed and sheer immediate excitement of Will’s Mineral Abstraction screen was a delight. The sounds from the turntable work were inspiring and Oliver’s final piece was great fun: I could see dance moves and strange shadow puppet unfoldings to it. It also spoke to me of darkness, of pebbles knocking together, of the rocks of Poole’s Cavern settling to rest after a long day of Being Looked At…..or just the atmosphere of the cave when the lights were switched off

Poole's 1

BM125: Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is 125 this year and to mark that anniversary, the BM125 project is bringing together experienced with new and emerging artists with 12 months of artistic initiatives. Look out for

Mermaids

Scimitar-toothed cats

My sister’s scarf

Crystalline: British Science Week at the Museum

Crystalline

11 – 16th March 2019

Crystals copy
a glitter, a flicker, light off a crystal….

During British Science Week (9 – 16 March 2019), Buxton Museum and Art Gallery will be hosting the artist Will Hurt as part of the BM125 celebrations. Will’s work explores unusual ways of working with the minerals in the Museum collection

Abstractions
Abstractions

During the week (11 – 15th) Will will be based in the Museum galleries working with schools and other groups. If you are interested, contact the Museum who will put you in touch with Will.

email: buxton.museum@derbyshire.gov.uk
Tel: 01629 533540

On Saturday 16th, we are having a Minerals afternoon with all sorts of exciting things going on

 

With Will, you might:

 

  • Make Mineral Sounds. Place minerals from Buxton’s collection on to turntables and listen to them make music. Custom software and webcams translate the silhouettes of minerals into audible soundscapes.
  • Draw Minerals. Use an iPad to create images of your own virtual minerals. Draw geometry inspired by minerals into virtual space, choose sizes and colours then save and print your images.
  • Create Mineral Abstractions. Interact with a large touchscreen to explore an audio-visual composition created in response to electron microscope images of minerals.
Draw
draw unexpected new minerals

Musician Oliver Payne will also be joining us on the Saturday to do a short 20min sound performance using Will’s Crystalline software and some of his own contraptions.

Our regular event leader, Gordon from Creeping Toad will be on hand to help with other activities including

  • Growing Crystals Kits: prepare your own mineral mix so you can just “add water and wait”….when you go home, you can grow your own Borax sort-of-snowflake or a crystal garden
  • Make a mineral zoetrope: design and make your own flickering crystal magic lantern
Jess 3
crystals grown on our last mineral event – thank you, Jess!

Joining in:

Saturday 16th March

Times: 1 – 4pm

No booking needed, just drop by and join in: last new entries 3.30

Free

Materials provided

Sounds
the shape and surface of a mineral become sound and music

 

grant_png_black

 

Gondwanaland

Volunteer archivist Ian Gregory poses another meditative inquiry:

I have, whilst working at Buxton Museum, catalogued a map of a continent that no longer exists. The geologists call it Gondwana or Gondwanaland, and most of the present day southern landmasses were once part of it. It broke up gradually but the process began about 200 million years ago.

14

Seeing this map on a plate for a slide reminded me of how hard it can be for new ideas to be accepted. The theory of continental drift, of which Gondwanaland is a crucial part, was first proposed in 1912 by Alfred Wegener but few people took it seriously. In 1957, Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen published a map of the sea floor of the Atlantic Ocean and it showed the sea floor gradually spreading out from underwater volcanoes in the middle of said ocean. For the first time, scientists knew of a mechanism that could power continental drift and it is known as plate tectonics.

Not everyone who rejected Wegener’s theory was a mindless conservative; since he hadn’t explained what could power continental drift. Tharp and Heezen’s discovery came after Wegener’s death. Still, when thinking about their stories, I wonder what other ideas that are currently out of favour might be one day accepted as facts?

Access to Boyd Dawkins

Museums and art galleries are always aiming to improve access to their collections. It is an unending cycle of analysis and development. Access covers many issues; opening times, admission charges, presenting information for different requirements, online content and so on. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of visitors being able to see the displays! The Boyd Dawkins Study at Buxton Museum is a popular exhibit. It presents the room of the pioneering archaeologist and geologist as it once was.

Boyd Dawkins study
Boyd Dawkins study

The problem is that the big chunky wooden cases at the front of the room prevent anyone under a metre tall from seeing the rest of the display, an oversight from when it was installed in the early 1980s.

BJ in BD room

Never happy with exclusion of any kind, Buxton Museum is pleased to announce that the old cases have now been replaced by contemporary British Museum standard versions from Armour Systems to a design developed by the museum. We have really had an interesting experience watching the cases come in as flat packs and then be built in the gallery. They have state of the art lighting and locking systems.

IMG_0589

For the first time ever, everyone will be able to see the Professor’s fascinating bounty of books and artefacts. Once the digital interpretation which we commissioned last year is fitted into the cabinets, we will bring 21st century technology to help you understand this Victorian scientist in his own room. Come along and see what you think!