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Len Tabner: Elements of Darkness

Wed – Sun, 10.30am – 4pm

The Mining Art Gallery

This new exhibition brings together a selection of Len Tabner’s drawings and paintings of Boulby Potash Mine on the North Yorkshire coast – the deepest mine in Britain.

For Elements of Darkness, Tabner explored the unfamiliar underground world of the miner in the early 1980s, drawing and painting in situ in the mine.

Len Tabner was born in South Bank on the River Tees near Middlesbrough. His father had been a merchant seaman and Tabner remains fascinated by the grim grandeur of the industrial northeast. He lives a few hundred yards from the highest cliffs in England, at 650 feet above the sea, and near the potash mine in Boulby—the deepest mine in Europe. It is a landscape of extremes and frequently of violent weather, but Tabner is not an artist to stay huddled indoors in his studio. He is to be found on the beach with his easel weighted down against the wind or, like Turner, on board ship in the middle of a gale.

Tabner’s is an elemental art, visionary in its scope. Due to these conditions, his paintings are produced with a sense of great urgency, with a rich variety of materials combining and competing on the surface of the paper. It is a question of evocation rather than description, although the paintings are definitely rooted in specific locales. Despite working from the Falkland Islands to Japan, Tabner demonstrates that we can understand the whole by knowing one small spot extremely well. His home territory has been transformed in his lifetime – enabling him to chart the death of mines and shipyards and record the birth and heyday of North Sea power.