I dream of painting and then I paint my dream – Vincent Van Gogh.
The city of Bakewell is a nice, strategic point for the Peak District enthusiast (yes!). You’re pretty much in the middle of that green slice of Heaven that emerged from the sea when God was playing whack-a-mole with this silly world of ours.
Now, for a couple of days (ten), the tranquil haven that is Bakewell explodes with arts. Music, dance and arts form triumvirate for everyone to see the local talent.
Out of the several exhibitions, I was invited to The Stanton Moor Project exhibition in H’s Wine Bar & Bistro. Between the hustle & bustle of a busy restaurant, a collection of 30 paintings hung. Themed around the beauty of the Peak District‘s astonishing sights, I meet Keith How, the painter (and fellow reviewer, poet, bass player…) for a quick chat and walk around the gallery.
The exhibition is dedicated to his mother, Louie W. How, and reflects Keith‘s love of the many sights you get at the Peak District. Expansive, overcast skies. The odd bit of ruins, sometimes used as a tourist attraction, sometimes in a state of decay under piles of moss. The unforgiving moors where you can disappear like the people of Comala disappeared in Juan Rulfo‘s Pedro Páramo.
There’s a heavy influence of H.M.W. Turner in The Stanton Moor Project. Take for example ‘Winter’s bone’, where the clash between sky and land is not only due to colour contrasts or the utterly mesmerising (and slightly scary) ‘Northern sky’, almost becoming a chiaroscuro piece. The paintings of Keith How are made up from sights of nature, captured in strokes of acrylic, watercolour and the odd bit of soil, grass and peat.
Indeed, some paintings not only reflect the Peak District, but are made of bits of the Peak District. Consider it a less frightening voodoo doll of Mother Earth. Influences do not stop in the artworld, the ethereal world of music is also visited. Ambient works by Brian Eno, apocalyptic riffs/atmospheres from Grails, magical folk from Fairport Convention, proper blues from The Waterboys and the soundscapes of Sigur Ros are some of the many influences that were the soundtrack to Mr How‘s artistic endeavours.
The exhibition is the thoughts, dreams and fears of a man who loves the nature that surrounds him, soaks it and lets those feelings transfer from hand to canvas. The sometimes stark sights always have a small twinkle in the eye, a small, almost undetectable smirk that renders all paintings the snapshots of a lucid dream. May he paint some more.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López.