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  • Writer's picturePenrith and Eden Museum

Inheritance: A Closer Look at Some Collected Things. Works by Sarah Jane Bellwood.

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

Sarah is an award-winning artist from North West England. Here in her own words she describes the inspiration behind the beautiful images she creates. And we share some highlights from the 2019 exhibition.

“I grew up in a small village off the A6 called Sandford. We were four miles away from Appleby and Penrith was a half hour ride in the car and was considered the big lights. We went there to McVities for our school shoes and to wander round the 'big' shops. Mostly we used the library van that visited our village for access to books but a trip to either Appleby or Penrith allowed us to access a much wider library where we could leaf through reference books to identify plants and birds seen locally. Notes and sketches were made for this purpose.

As an undiagnosed dyslexic I did very badly at school and took refuge in drawing. I spent a huge amount of time alone walking along the river Eden making water colour sketches and taking very poor quality notes on wild life discovered. I had a particular interest in the insect life found with in meadows and hedgerows and made many detailed drawings and paintings of collected specimen."

"In recent years my practice has involved a close relationship with Lancaster University's environmental department. I have been looking at their collections of insects and producing work based around conversation and interaction with various PhD students regarding their research into climate change and the effects on meadow land.

A lot of their research was done in the Eden Valley, Long Marton and Appleby area and travelling up towards Penrith. This of course was of huge interest to me as I grew up there and knew the landscape they were looking at intimately. We have now established a Drawing Masterclass linking drawing with the environmental department for schools which has just celebrated it's second year."

"The man made detritus used in my paintings stresses the connection between our existence and that of our wildlife. I have collected cutlery and sewing paraphernalia as tools of my gender. A huge amount of my cutlery was found in junk shops and charity shops in the Eden Valley, man of which have now sadly disappeared. I grew up visiting the kitchens of farm houses where a carving knife would be passed down through generations, nothing was new. People mended their belongings and did not place a huge amount of importance on consumerism and possessions. Conversation and gossip and people were what mattered. A lot of the insects I look at, particularly the bees, are female colonies. I listened to women talking, buttering bread for sandwiches during hay timing, making up flasks for the men when they were laying the hedges I found so fascinating."

"The insects, the sewing equipment and the cutlery were all around during the Inclosure acts that saw the hedgerows established and could still be used today. These were not objects intended for throwing away. The idea of constantly replacing their possessions would have been abhorrent. The meadows that the hedgerows keep provided a substance for the people I grew up with. The land was valued and tended, it has little changed since I was a child. It interests me to hold a knife where the user's hand and fingers have formed a grove from constant use. Their DNA impregnated within its handle and the ghost of their life remaining in its image."

You can find more of Sarah's work for sale at Panter and Hall art gallery.

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