The Burton Art Gallery & Museum
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Friday, November 13, 2015
Kingsley Road, Bideford EX39 2QQ
South West England
Burton Art Gallery & Museum

An exhibition at a Devon gallery next month provides a surprising take on a traditional material. Eleven artists and a film-maker have created new work using a unique black coal – and some of the works will join the gallery’s permanent collection for future generations to explore.

Valued for its silky texture and pitch black hue, Bideford Black pigment has historically been used by artists, industries and the military. In next month’s exhibition, a new generation of artists and users ask questions about past and present uses of this dark resource.

Bideford Black: The Next Generation, which opens at Burton Art Gallery and Museum in Bideford on 3 October, presents a range of sensory, physical, emotional and abstract encounters with Bideford Black pigment – a dark, sticky substance found in the North Devon landscape. The exhibition is the culmination of a year of exploring and making – a year in which the artists and film-maker pushed Bideford Black to its physical limits and thought about what the material might mean today.

For the first time ever, The Burton has specially commissioned the artworks for Bideford Black: The Next Generation, and many of the works will become a new permanent part of the gallery’s collection.

Warren Collum, Exhibitions and Collections Officer said: “Bideford Black: The Next Generation is all about linking the industrial heritage of Bideford and its local pigment with contemporary artists’ research and ideas. This exhibition will confound audiences’ expectations about what this black earth pigment can do. It’s almost as if we’d been working with a group of alchemists, scientists and magicians for a year!”

Carolyn Black of Flow Contemporary Arts, who co-produced the project with arts consultant Claire Gulliver, said: “Since that first day in 2014 when we met all of the artists and viewed the seam together, until this launch, we’ve been fascinated by how the artists ideas have evolved from the first expressions of interest. Biddiblack, as locally known, really has been stretched to its limits. We’re delighted that many of these artworks will be joining the Burton’s collection permanently.

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “This is an exciting exhibition of work by some outstanding artists and with a very special local connection. In the south west we’re justly proud of both our artists and our local heritage; this project brings both sides together in a new and surprising way and I’m delighted that we’re supporting it.”

The full list of artists is: Tabatha Andrews (Devon), ATOI (Amy Thomas and Oliver Irvine, Cornwall), Luce Choules (Essex), Corinne Felgate (France), Neville and Joan Gabie (Gloucestershire) in collaboration with Prof Ian Cook (University of Exeter). Ian Cook, Littlewhitehead (Blake Whitehead and Craig Little, Lanarkshire), Lizzie Ridout (Cornwall), Sam Treadaway (Bristol) and film-maker Liberty Smith (London/Devon).