Art at the coalface: Retrospective for Yorkshire artist

17 May 2018....... South Yorkshire artist Janet Buckle  looks back at her prolific career with a 100-piece exhibition at Doncaster Art Gallery. Picture Scott Merrylees
17 May 2018....... South Yorkshire artist Janet Buckle looks back at her prolific career with a 100-piece exhibition at Doncaster Art Gallery. Picture Scott Merrylees
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THEY are the shapes and forms that dominated Yorkshire’s coalfield regions for decades - and influenced an artists’ career.

Now the coal stacks, cooling towers and slag heaps of Rossington, Hay Royds, Harworth, Hatfield, Maltby, Ferrybridge and beyond, immortalised in oils by Janet Buckle, are on display at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.

The Bradford-born, artist, who attended the world-renowned Slade School, has seen more than 100 pieces of her work displayed as part of a major retrospective of a career spanning more than five decades.

Ms Buckle, who has lived in Tickhill, Doncaster, in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfields, since the 1970s, began painting coal mines in the 1990s, inspired by the colliery at Harworth in Bassetlaw, which she would pass when visiting her mother.

“You could see it from the roadside and I was just fascinated by landscape,” she said. “Every time I went past things seemed to just change - the equipment would move, the shapes, the colours. It was so dramatic, a sort of luna landscape, so I started drawing and painting it.”

The first colliery she was granted direct access to was Yorkshire Main at Edlington, where, kitted up in hard hat and high-vis, she sat above a hive of activity, with lorries coming and going emptying coal.

It was there she saw the beauty among the coal dust.

She said: “It was so noisy, dusty and dirty, and then at 12pm the men went to lunch and everything stopped. You could hear the birds singing, it was so quiet.”

By around 2000, many of the sites she had painted had closed, and she turned her hand to other subjects. It wasn’t until she was asked by someone who wanted to buy a coal picture that she went on to discover Maltby Colliery, just a few miles from her home, which gave her a final chance to capture Yorkshire’s coalfields..

It was ten minutes down the road, but you couldn’t see much of Maltby from the roadside so for some reason it had never attracted my attention,” she said.

“Now I have more or less given up because there is nowhere else to go. When I started out, you couldn’t live in this area without seeing the remains of coal mining in the landscape.”

Ms Buckle’s work has been displayed around the country, including in two Royal Academy exhibitions.

Six of her coal landscapes are now owned by the National Coal Mining Museum for England in Wakefield, which loaned a piece for the retrospective.

The exhibition also features some of Ms Buckle’s other subjects, from still lifes and flowers to other landscapes; and alongside it curators at the gallery have hand selected other pieces in the Doncaster collection by Slade School alumni.

Ms Buckle said it felt “odd” to see so much of her work together.

“They no longer feel like they are mine,” she said. “They take on a life of their own once they have left the studio and are framed and on walls.”

Janet Buckle: From Flowers to Coal Mines - A Life’s Work runs at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery until July 1.