Penrith Beekeepers News

The Hive Geometrix Exhibition: May – July 2022

The ‘Hive Geometrix Exhibition’  was held at Upfront Gallery, nr. Penrith  17th May – 3rd July 2022,  showcased Stephen Livingstone’s paintings about the lives of honey bees throughout the seasons.

Stephen Livingstone is a visual artist who is based in Durham. His work deals with human impact upon landscapes and habitats and often involves collaboration with museums and archives, academic institutions and individuals with specialist knowledge and skills. He has developed major projects for the British Library, the National Trust, Durham University and the Museum of Art and Design in New York.

Stephen prepared for the exhibition over a number of years by observing Penrith beekeepers at work, participating in hive inspections and honey extractions and studying how bee colonies change throughout the seasons. The vivid images he created illustrate the impact of seasonal patterns on the ways in which honeybees work together to reproduce, collect and manage their stores of pollen and nectar and cluster over the winter months. He has also been instrumental in selecting photographs taken by association members to complement the paintings.

Stephen says this about his paintings:

‘Beehives are places of mystery and magic. Even beekeepers, who over many centuries have developed an intimate, symbiotic relationship with honeybees, can never properly understand nor fully visualise the complex inner-workings of their hives.

In my paintings I imagine the inside of a working beehive, representing the activities of the queens, workers and drones throughout a bee year, portraying, in symbolic form, their political and social activities and often desperate efforts to survive, aided and abetted by the interventions of their human guardians. The paintings are cutaways, architectural diagrams of the interior structures of a beehive, each panel representing a particular part of the hive, the colours selected and layered in order to evoke the light and scent sensing experiences of the bees.’

A large mobile, ‘Dancing Bees’, was created by the pupils of Temple Sowerby School to hang in the exhibition area.   PBKA aims to raise awareness of the value of bees to the environment, the issues that are causing their decline and how they can be helped to survive.  It provides schools with opportunities for their children to learn about bees through cross curricular programmes. Between January – March, Key Stage 2 pupils at Temple Sowerby Primary School worked with visual artist, Ali McCaw and beekeepers Alex Wilkinson, Jane Taylor and Margaret Riches. Through interactive learning activities, the children discovered how honey bees in particular, communicate with each other, pollinate plants and produce honey . They used observational analysis to identify the characteristics of bee friendly plants and created their own designs of a ‘perfect flower’ for bees and large models of honey bees.

Alongside Stephen’s paintings, Penrith Beekeepers Association displayed ten panels of information about bees and beekeeping activities to provide additional information. This display also included photographic prints of ‘bees in action’ that had been taken by beekeepers for the PBKA Calendars.

A note book was provided in which visitors to the exhibition were invited to provide their comments. These included the following:

17/5/22  ‘An excellent and informative exhibition – MOST interesting!’ D.Spence, Appleby

18/5/22  ‘Lovely art work, particularly good to see the link with local schools.’ M&R Houston

18/5/22  ‘Absolutely first rate.’  A. Beetie

‘Beautiful paintings – extraordinary.’  Red Silktone, Shropshire

22/5/22  ‘Incredibly and fascinating exhibition. Art work superb. Wonderful colour combinations. Are you going to produce a book?’ Romey Chaffer Durham

‘Absolutely stunning!’

‘My favourite one was queen cups. It is so beautiful.’  Esca B

‘I really enjoyed it.’

‘Fabulous I need much more time to fully appreciate it!’

‘Brilliant! Especially love the high flying bees.’   Janet

‘Couldn’t resist coming again. Enjoyed it just as much. Thank you’   Romey

‘Absolutely fantastic! Wonderful work – beautiful and fascinating- the detail is extraordinary. I love the surface quality.’  Janet Snailey

‘Great exhibition, bringing design and knowledge with awareness of the power of the bee.’ Gloria

‘Superb combination of knowledge, skill and creativity. Excellent show.’  Andy

‘Very informative and interesting’  Kathleen

9/6/22 ‘What a great show! Great combination of aesthetic and storytelling . I spent ages enjoying and absorbing- fantastic!  Johnnie Foker  Durham

18/6/22 ‘Plenty of information to digest + interesting ID of Asian Hornet as against the European Hornet.’  WAA

22/6/22 ‘Best ever exhibition put on here at Upfront!  Thank you’ Daphne Honey

22/6/22 ‘Very Very fun and stuff – merci beaucoup’  Jeremy Honey

30/6/22 ‘Very very interesting exhibition  Pleased we came. Love all the dancing bees especially the furry faces.’ Frances Allan

1/7/22 ‘This is excellent. I want to go back to Carlisle and meet up with some beekeepers to find out more!’  G. Stables

‘Just wonderful, vibrating noisy paintings.’  Christina Thwaite

‘Beautiful paintings showing the order and structure and movement of the bee world.’ Tinks Weinell S.A.

6/6/22  ‘We thought it was wonderful.’   Alex Playford

6/6/22  ‘Really felt the knowledge and passion beneath the surfaces of these works of art, wonderfully compelling and the intricate attention to the structure and geometry really gives the feel of a hive’s inner workings.’   Lucy Playford.


Photographs were taken by Ian Smith and David Wheeler.

During the period of the Hive Geometrix Exhibition, PBKA also ran other events at Upfront Gallery:

  • ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ attended by people who posed questions about their gardening issues to a panel of experts.
  • ‘Bee Hotel Workshops’ which provided opportunities for families to learn more about bees and make a bee hotel to hang in their garden in which types of  solitary bees can lay their eggs.
  • ‘Pop up Shops’ to sell bee products created by the members and friends of PBKA and their bees.