Tempting show by 13 leading artists

One of the most exciting art exhibitions of 2017 promises to be The Adam and Eve Project which involves the work of 13 leading artists based in and around Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

The fascinating project was the brainchild of Doveridge painter John Rattigan, who has worked alongside the chosen artists for other smaller exhibitions in the past.

This show will be launched at St John Street Gallery in Ashbourne this month as part of the town’s arts festival. It will then be toured around the county at various other venues.

“Their brief was to make a personal response to the time honoured narrative of Adam and Eve, and in particular to re-imagine some key aspect from its well-established iconography; the Garden of Eden, the symbolism associated with the Serpent, Tree of Knowledge  and the Forbidden Fruit, or wider philosophical concepts such as the Fall of Man or Original Sin,” explains John.

“Equally, because of the historical pedigree that surrounds this theme –encapsulating as it does everything from medieval stained glass and illuminated scripts, and artists as diverse as Masaccio and Rembrandt, Chagall and Klimt – each exhibiting artist had the option to use aspects of art history as a starting point.

“Ultimately they had complete freedom to determine their own approach,whether this was playful or serious, decoratively treated or realist in form, set within a contemporary or mythical milieu, using a medium of their choosing.”

The artists taking part alongside John are R N Clarke, Michael Cook, Elizabeth Forrest, Lee Mackay, Simon Manby, Rebecca Mercer, Duncan Pass, Sue Prince, Sarah Sharpe, Roger Sutton, Janet Turville and Anna Thomas, who you can read about on page 9.

In his interpretation John couldn’t resist trying out some Cubist-like multiple profiles and in some he has specifically included the presence of an owl as an indirect reference to Adam’s so-called first wife, Lilith.

Among the others, printmaker Simon Manby has created a light-hearted image inspired by his own relationship with his wife of fifty years.

Lee Mackay has created a suite of four paintings in which she looks at the idea that it is only where there is imperfection with the possibility of improvement that satisfaction and happiness truly lies.

Lettering artist and papermaker Elizabeth Forrest has created a colourful piece with a strong sense of visual drama.

Sheffield artist Sarah Sharpe has focused on Eve with the intention of redeeming her.

“My Eve is of the Earth: feminine serpent wisdom within her,” she says. “Brave Eve who ate the fruit and woke us up.”

Printmaker Duncan Pass has used woodcut and pattern to create his image. He says it is inspired by Byzantine art and the art of the early Church.

Contemporary folk artist Sue Prince has created a Peak District Adam and Eve with Ashbourne’s World War I memorial gates as the gates of Eden.

Roger Sutton says the serpent coiled around a tree is a delight to a woodcarver but the dialogue and transaction that followed were more of a challenge for him.

There is a preview of  The Adam and Eve Project at the St John Street Gallery, Ashbourne from 5-8pm on  June 15.