Barley Beal’s exhibition opens at weekend

Art-Studio-014The results of Barley Beal’s residency in Derbyshire will soon be on view.

Saint Mondays and thereby hangs a tale is the title he has given to his exhibition created for the county via the Jonathan Vickers Art Award.

The new work will be at the Museum and Art Gallery in Derby from September 7 to November 10.

Barley is most definitely an emerging star of the arts world and his intense and ethereal work was first featured in artsbeat in February as he started out on the project.

He has spent the past nine months absorbing the stories and traditions connected with the industrial heritage of the Derwent Valley as per his brief for the residency.

He has translated those tales and memories into paintings with their own narrative, a task that he admits has not been easy.

“There were hundreds of stories from where a set of paintings could come and I would arrive at the studio to a sea of paintings.

“Eventually I had to decide what to focus on and had to be pretty vicious to cut it down to just six or seven stories.

“I chose my eccentric figures from folk, music, poetry old family archives and conversation. It was these people who defined the Jonathan Vickers theme – A Sense of Place.

Barley describes the characters he has painted as ‘expressive figures within an under-described space’ and says that the pictures develop as much from trial and error as they do from his skills with the paint.

The tales he has transformed into artwork include one about Sammy Ashton, an apprenticed nailer at Belper who dreamt of being a travelling showman; and the list of rules which could lead to wages being forfeited by workers at Strutt’s Mill.

There’s also Charlie Hudson’s famous pigeon who was named the King of Rome after winning the Rome to England race and Alice in the Bacon Box about a woman featured in a song he first heard being sung by Lucy Ward at the Discovery Days event in the valley last autumn.

“What really started the ball rolling was hearing Lucy sing about Alice Grace.

“Although Alice was from Long Eaton outside the World Heritage Site I began to search through the history of those mills to find similar oddities, historically quiet but community renowned.

“Each painting is an attempt to keep these Derbyshire stories and memories alive.

“I hope that all of these works find a balance between keeping true to my own approach to painting and staying honest to their story.”

During his nine months’ residency Barley has also led a series of workshops with county schoolchildren and tutored at the University of Derby.

Portraits by young people from Aldercar Community Language College, Anthony Gell School, Wirksworth, Highfields School, Matlock and Murray Park School, Mickleover, will be on display at the museum alongside Barley’s in an exhibition  called Drawn by Line and Shade.

Barley will also be giving a talk about his paintings at the museum on September 12 from 1pm-2pm and this will be followed by a guided walk inspired by some of the places and stories in the exhibition.

For more information about the Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award  and how to apply go to