Buxton museum art exhibition paints prehistoric Derbyshire in new light

Visitors to the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery this month can enjoy a trip through space and time with a spellbinding exhibition which reimagines Derbyshire’s ancient landscapes and ritual remains.

By Ed Dingwall
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 8:42 am

In ‘Tipping Points: Explorations in liminal landscapes’, Scottish artist Sarah Keast combines printing, painting and mixed media collages into artworks which incorporate landscape, geology, archaeology and the natural world.

All the pieces were created especially for the exhibition, with Sarah working on and off for four years in a study of Derbyshire’s wild places and artefacts held in the museum collection.

Sarah, 53, said: “I hadn’t been to Derbyshire before, most of my life’s been further north, but it’s been an absolute joy to discover it.

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Sarah Keast's exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery allowed her to work on a bigger scale than ever before.

“The exhibition was meant to happen in 2020, then it got pushed back due to Covid. That was the biggest challenge I faced but it gave me time to delve deeper. I surprised myself producing so many new pieces. It was a very rich place to work.”

Sarah’s creative practice stems from her first career as a geologist. When family life took over, she retrained at a local college in Dumfries and Galloway, then carried on to Glasgow School of Art and London’s Slade School.

She said: “There are still a lot of links to natural history and archaeology but I don’t just make reproductions of what I see on the landscape. I work with the way it makes me feel, a sense of history and also what’s going on in the world at that moment.

“For this exhibition, I did a lot of work at Arbor Low and Barbrook stone circles, thinking about henges and prehistoric ceremonial landscapes. Derbyshire is covered with sites people made as rituals for stages of life. How do we do that now? Where is our love for the land and what do we to mark it?

Some pieces were inspired the rock formations of the Peak District.

“I spent a day in the museum, sketching some of the collection which is full of Blue John and other stones. Then I spent time travelling the county to get an eye for the landscape. I loved going up to the edges like Stanage and Froggatt. The stones you find up there are like sculptures.”

In keeping with the epochal scale of the peaks and dales, the gallery space also allowed Sarah to expand her vision.

She said: “The museum has high walls and big spaces and it was new and exciting to work on such a large scale. It’s really liberating. They’ve done a fantastic job of hanging the exhibition.

“When I first walked around I was struck that it was such a colourful phase. Everything’s bright, exuberant and joyful. It’s such a lovely thing to have come out of the pandemic period.

Sarah's work combines a variety of mixed media approaches to the shapes of the natural world.

She added: “The gallery says people have been spending a lot of time looking at it, quite a few pieces have been sold and two will be going in the permanent collection.

“I hope people will see different layers in it, that it will take them on a journey, stimulate their imagination and make them see the archaeology cases in a different light.”

Tipping Points is on until Sunday, July 17: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and Sundays noon to 4pm. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/3zQLkvD.

To learn more about Sarah’s work, go to sarahkeast.co.uk.

The exhibition has been causing museum visitors to pause for thought.

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