Over the summer of 2016 Derby Museum ran an exhibition that was entitled ‘Everyone: your place in the world’ which was an art exhibition with a difference – it was literally open to everyone no matter what age or ability to showcase the Museum’s belief that everyone can be creative in some way.
This exhibition was an absolute joy to visit and there was a huge variety of different works of art in every form of media from photographic to Sharpie pens to oils to mixed media to watercolour with artists ranging from very experienced to just starting out.
I appreciate I am writing this in January 2017 as I have just discovered my photographs by accident but really wanted to include a selection of the art works in my learning log as it was an exhibition that inspired me personally and no doubt inspired all who went to visit it.
The exhibition was spread over 3 exhibition spaces which were very well lit with each work spaced along the walls – there was no overlapping or being hung too high or too low so each piece could be seen clearly and fully appreciated. The works were not hung in specific genres or age groups so it effectively persuaded the viewer to look at all rather than personal favourites – for instance a child’s art was hung next to an experienced watercolour artist or oil painter.
In total there were approximate 150 different pieces and I have chosen just a few for this blog to give an example of the variety of the exhibition.
Ay up me duck by Mair Perkins – for no artistic reason other than it made me smile I just love this piece! Mair has used acrylic and ink for what is ultimately a simple composition with the word ‘quack’ forming the water.
Sometimes it is nice to have a reminder that art does not need to be serious but can be just pure fun both to view and to do. There is no doubting the skill involved and also the thought that has gone into this piece – I wonder whether this was done during a design process or just an idea that worked first time.
In total contrast another favourite was this piece titled ‘you go first’ by Paul Searson which was oil on board.
The detail in this oil painting was absolutely astonishing and the way that Mr Searson has captured the light and shadow was awe inspiring – I could have studied this art work for a considerable period and in fact did you back and look several times as well as take some close up photographs for personal later reference. Mr Searson captures a calm and happy atmosphere with a scene that invites you into the painting and makes you want to explore what is around that corner of the road. I love the limited palette he has used – primarily greens, grey and white which brings harmony and that aforesaid sense of calm.
Harman Dickson’s piece is enamel on board and titled ‘Girl Talk’.
I have not seen enamel paint used in this way before – my experience of it is in Airfix models as a child so it is fascinating to see how it can be used in different artistic terms. From my limited understanding there are various different types of enamel paint but it is a paint that is very opaque and therefore covers well whatever it is painted on. I do really like the composition of this piece and again it has a lovely calming and relaxing atmosphere as two girls talk in the late afternoon or evening against a setting sun – the sun is large and prominent, almost oversized so there is a feeling of a slightly distorted perspective from the point of the viewer which is further compounded by the fact that the figures seem to be sitting or standing at their table in a slightly rough sea rather than on a beach or in a taverna or cafe.
This is a painting that the more I look at it the more it makes me think and question what the artist is trying to say to the viewer.
A more familiar scene to me is this watercolour by Charles Chen of Irongate.
I can personally testify to the accuracy of Mr Chen’s piece as I have lived in Derby for over 16 years now and know this area well. I question whether Mr Chen has painted this scene en plein air or from a clear photograph but either way the light and the desertion of the street, apart from two figures, suggests it was done early in the day – Irongate is in an area known as the Cathedral Quarter, which in December 2016 was awarded the title of Britain’s best high street by the Department for Communities and Local Government, and so is a relatively busy part of the city from early morning to late evening.
The focus of the painting is Derby Cathedral in the background but no less attention has been paid to the shops and bars in the middle and foreground. I note the perspective has been done with incredible accuracy and there has been clear attention to where the light falls as well as carefully chosen and considered colours. Atmospherically I am unsure what this piece says to me but this is more to do with the fact I know this area so well – it is hard to be subjective and just let the painting speak to me because although the street appears quiet and calm I know it is bustling and full of life so my feelings become clouded but maybe that is also the appeal of the painting too for me personally.
Sally Kesterton has used mixed media for her piece, ‘Pebble Path’.
I took particular note of this piece because there is machine stitching done on the pebbles which created texture as well as having linear qualities. The subject is simple – pebbles but those pebbles become the focus with their slightly differing ovals and shapes along with the subtle colours and textures. I have a habit of over-complicating designs and ideas which I am slowly recognising and this piece along with others in the exhibition reminds me that sometimes it is the simplest ideas that are the most effective and can be developed into a considered and well thought out design or art work.
‘Shining Cliff Pond’ by Jeff Mander was one of the photographic works in the exhibition.
The subject is a large pond in Derbyshire and clearly taken on a misty morning as the sun rises. The pond has almost a mystical feel about it and if the sun had stayed hidden behind clouds this area could feel very sinister particularly as this also clearly be taken in winter. I am particularly interested in the palette of this piece – the colours are muted and almost sepia toned which again adds to the atmosphere. The reflections of the trees and shrubs are caught in the still water with nothing moving but everything is calm.
As I stated earlier one of the nicest things about this exhibition was the wide age range of the exhibitors – this small art work by Darcey Oversby is clearly a child’s piece and drawn simply using Sharpie pens.
Age is no barrier to art work and nor is creativity and this piece alone demonstrates what the museum aimed to achieve – anyone can be creative and for me that is something that should really be encouraged. Every great artist starts somewhere – from the great masters of the Renaissance to the graffiti artist or the textile artist and who knows young Darcey might go on to be the next Tracey Emin.
Edward John Morgan painted and drew a series of postcard sized images for his work he called ‘my place in the world’.
This piece I liked because of the variety of different sketches and small paintings done as Mr Morgan explored both the world in which lives as well as his place and in turn I found myself thinking about where I fit in.
I have lived in Derby for over 16 years now which is by far the longest time I have lived anywhere but I have also lived in Oxfordshire for 15 years but in different locations in that county, I lived in Lincolnshire, again in different locations, for 10 years and I was also born in Plymouth so if I was to do a similar series of paintings would I include just Derby or would I look to include each individual town or would I also include the places I have visited? each and very one makes up a part of who I am. Mr Morgan has through his art work made the viewer think as well as enjoying the fact that each postcard sized art work is wonderfully executed in pen and watercolour or pencil.
One of my other favourites was done by Diana Shepherd and service uses from the Erewash House – The Phoenix.
This triptych style art work has the impression of ceramic mosaics but is made up of coloured paper and magazines – it is ultimately a collage.
Erewash House is a community outreach centre for those people with mental health issues, drug and substance misuse or learning difficulties which gives further meaning to the subject of the art work – the phoenix that is reborn and rises from the ashes. The artists involved, and I am intentionally calling each person an artist, have come together and collectively created an art work that speaks of their determination to overcome their struggles and I don’t think I need to add further words – the piece speaks for itself.
These are just 9 of the art works on display and each and everyone I now view slightly differently to how I would have done before I started my studies – each has made me think in some capacity and also study the lines, the colours, the form or the textures as well as simply the meaning behind the piece, the emotions it evokes or the atmosphere captured.
Some of the art works were for sale so this exhibition provided a platform for both professional artists and those maybe hoping for their first sale. Overall I was not sure what to expect from this exhibition but I can honestly say I think of all the visits I did in 2016, regarding exhibitions or visits to country or town houses, for this course and the art history module that it was one of my favourites and I can only hope Derby Museum repeats it again in 2017.
Derby Museums. 2016. Everyone – Your Place in the World. Derby. John E Wright.
Derby Telegraph. 2016. Derby Cathedral Quarter Wins Great British High Street Awards – reaction and delight [online]. [Date Accessed: January 2017]. Available from: http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/derby-cathedral-quarter-great-british-high-street-awards-live-updates/story-29976383-detail/story.html