Toward the Light - Touring Exhibition

A Solo Touring Exhibition by Bradford Museums and Galleries  2010 - 2013

supported by The Arts Council of England and Musems Libraries  & Archives 

This is a substantial exhibition of over 45 works (paintings and drawings) presented by Bradford Museums and Galleries at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery Bradford.  

Approach to Gallery II, Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, © Pip Dickens
This blog introduces the exhibition but, for the most part, concentrates on discoveries made during my Residency with Bradford Museums and Galleries using photography and sketches made whilst at one of its venues -  Cliffe Castle Museum.

You can view the exhibition on You Tube page at :

About the Exhibition

Retrospective in format, the common theme presented is the dramatic relationship we have between light and darkness expressed through a diverse range of contexts and methodologies.

Subject matter ranges from cinematic formats (eg. Cinemascope, Todd AO), classical literature and films (King Kong, Great Expectations, Rebecca) to the 'Space Race', chandeliers, fabrics, ribbons and lace. 

'Miss Havisham II', oil on canvas, 152cm x 152 cm, © Pip Dickens

Their distinctness belies a common exploration through the darkness toward illumination, sometimes physical sometimes metaphysical... in the SPACE RACE drawings silver birch trees yearn for the moon...

'Crash and Burn I', SPACE RACE series of drawings, charcoal on paper, © Pip Dickens
...unknown presences hide behind lace veils...

'Miss Havisham I', oil on canvas, Private Collection © Pip Dickens
 ...shadows hold domain in empty spaces and chandeliers burn bright like ships on a dark ocean. Sometimes mournful, sometimes celebratory...

You can find out about this exhibition by visiting either my dedicated webpage which includes a brief video and extensive images/information of works in the exhibition.  Also Bradford Museums and Galleries has its own page here

Critical text The Alchemy of the Surface: The Paintings of Pip Dickens from the exhibition catalogue by arts writer, Roy Exley.

The Wonder of Cliffe Castle

Part of my Residency and commission for the 'Toward the Light' exhibition involved a number of visits to Cartwright Hall Art Gallery's sister museum, Cliffe Castle (note: it is currently closed for refurbishment but due to re-open its doors in 2013), in 2009.

My attention was caught by a most wonderful collection of very ostentatious early 19th Century French chandeliers...

One of the beautiful chandeliers at Cliffe Castle
© Pip Dickens

chandelier at Cliffe Castle
© Pip Dickens

Each chandelier is bursting with beads, flowers, orbs, droplets and all manner of crystals. © Pip Dickens

Detail shot of chandelier at Cliffe Castle © Pip Dickens

All of these chandeliers were sold off in the 1950s but, amazingly, were found, re-purchased and re-installed when the house was taken over by Bradford Museums and Galleries.  Quite a story and one which made me curious to know where the chandeliers had gone for all of those years away from their original home...

The chandeliers became the focus of a new series of 'Chandelier' paintings that were incorporated into the 'Toward the Light' touring exhibition.

Quick chandelier concept sketches at Cliffe Castle © Pip Dickens

Quickly rendered chandelier concept sketches at Cliffe Castle © Pip Dickens

Again, quickly rendered sketches in coloured ink and white pen.© Pip Dickens

Chandelier explorations developed further drawing upon ideas from The Enlightenment (candle power) to Frankenstein (electricity/galvanism) and finally to atomic bombs!

'Atomic Playboy', Chandelier series of paintings, oil on canvas, © Pip Dickens



Other Wonders at Cliffe Castle Museum...

Birds...get stuffed
Cliffe Castle is also to home to an amazing (and it would be fair to say) bizarre collection of stuffed animals which includes a two-headed lamb and a Yorkshire Terrier - the birds in particular appealed to me with their cases beautifully painted to create natural scenes...

Golden Eagle at Cliffe Castle, the crack in the painted sky scene adds a sense of foreboding © Pip Dickens

An atmospheric winter scene of birds at Cliffe Castle © Pip Dickens
A kingfisher 'in flight' at Cliffe Castle © Pip Dickens
Quick sketch situ, of blackbird © Pip Dickens
Quick sketch situ, of blackbird © Pip Dickens
Quick sketch situ, of blackbird © Pip Dickens
Quick sketch situ, of blackbird © Pip Dickens
Quick sketch situ, of blackbird © Pip Dickens

Natural Bling...The Mineral Collection

The Mineral collection at Cliffe Castle combines the Ellison and Hinchliffe Collection  - over 1,000 specimens in total...not to be sniffed at...and probably one of the finest collections outside of The Natural History Museum, London.

Samples of Chatoyancy in Cliffe' Castle's mineral room © Pip Dickens

Labradorite in Syenite in the Mineral Room, Cliffe Castle © Pip Dickens

A huge specimen of Rose Quartz at Cliffe Castle © Pip Dickens

Glasshouses etc...

In the glass house next to the museum cafe, there is a good collection of tropical plants which includes a variety of cactus...

Specimen of Cactus - 1- at Cliffe Castle Museum © Pip Dickens

Specimen of Cactus - 2 - at Cliffe Castle Museum © Pip Dickens

Specimen of Cactus - 3 - at Cliffe Castle Museum

and there's more...

The nearby town of Silsen was once the epi-centre of clog-making - Cliffe Castle includes an area to honour this craft and also the many thousands of poor souls who tramped to and from the mills and across moorland in them...touching are the minute wooden clogs made for toddlers...even more touching is the fact that these clogs were still being made in Silsden up to the 1950s.

Cliffe Castle also features an adult-sized 19th century cradle – for soothing an unreasonable wife – an item donated by Bradford men's club:

This is an adult-sized wooden rocking cradle, supposedly for soothing nagging wives instead of babies. It had humorous rules and was displayed in galas, but it is not known whether it was used. The club used to meet at the Royal Hotel, Damside, and was started by Henry Hargreaves Thompson, who was landlord in 1861. The pub became the Royal Oak in 1998. source:wikipedia

Wonderful stained glass windows by William Morris, historic costumes, antiquarian toys and much, much more.

A veritable wunderkammer!

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