Ashbourne Arts Festival is underway again amidst glorious sunny weather and a buzzing Georgian backdrop. The Art Exhibition also opened up in the town hall on Saturday. If the idea of “local art exhibition” conjures images of the output from local evening classes featuring bowls of fruit and naked parishioners rendered in watercolour think again. The exhibition is a mixture of invited artists which varies each year and selected submitted works. 2013’s show was pretty strong and set a high standard to beat. The curation is very thoughtful and the balance between figurative and abstract, media and subject matter is well thought out – giving invited artists a showcase of work rather than just individual works. The light in the Ashbourne Town Hall is also pretty good for an exhibition.
The range of media is demonstrated initially by the presence of photographs. I did like the set of photographs of Dovedale – or more precisely the Dove – by Peter Walker. They take a very familiar subject and capture the light of the landscape to create something abstract. The photographs picked up well a strong local theme this year but also a theme of nature.
This theme was illustrated beautifully by Jane Bevan’s wonderfully delicate sculptures in the form of “pots” made out of bark and twigs which were incredibly fragile but full of detail. At the far end of the room were two large tableaux by Maggie Cullen. I was familiar with her sculptures using books and paper folding but I hadn’t seen her small figurines in this kind of work. They are exquisite and have a surprising amount of detail. The ones in the picture at the head of this blog are made out of roots and twigs but somehow they retain a clear form at quite small scale. The other arrangement in rows with figurines made out of printed paper and then brightly coloured elements was full of strange characters.
There were paintings too of course. The highlight for me was a quite traditional impressionist painting by Simon Gilmartin of a girl in a field near Osmaston. I think I know the field very well and the painting captures the landscape beautifully. The subject looks to be reimagined to a time when the estate was operating as a stately home – a golden and innocent time half-remembered. As a complete contrast I like his light and airy Street Market, Tribeca NY too.
There are other paintings too – Rachael Pinks who is based on Cromford is showing two sets of small brightly coloured abstract acrylic paintings using some other materials which hint at small details of everyday life taken out of focus. You find yourself leaning in to see more detail of a landscape or an interior which isn’t there. They feature blocks of bright colour and i thought the hanging of these was done well.
Vicky Scotcher is showing a stoneware rendition of the facade of Ashbourne Town Hall. The photograph doesn’t do it justice as the detail and the relief is quite striking. It is obviously a fairly recent work as it includes the Tourist Information Centre sign by the alleyway. I hope it will find a local buyer to put it on their wall.
She also had a row of Derbyshire stone cottage fronts on display, I liked the way these were displayed with a frame as works of art rather than as ceramics or novelties.
Amongst the other works are some bronze figures by Simon Manby, some paintings of the Rolls Royce works and wildlife subjects.
As with last year there is a sale of unsigned original postcards (£15) by some of the featured artists if you can’t afford the £200-£6000 price range of the works on display but still want a momento.