New online art gallery showcases South West artists

Tracey Platt Confusion

Tracey Platt Confusion - Credit: Archant

Gallery SW represents painters, sculptors and artists working in a range of mediums from Cornwall, Devon and the South West

Kristen Elswood En Route to the Merry Maidens'

Kristen Elswood En Route to the Merry Maidens' - Credit: Archant

In the spring, the art world moved entirely online in a matter of hours. Events were cancelled, exhibitions closed their doors and galleries could no longer sell to shoppers coming through their doors. The only answer lay in the internet.

But before lockdown, one gallery showcasing the best of artists in the South West was set up entirely to offer art lovers an online fix.

Online galleries are far from new when it comes to selling art. But doing it well is another feature altogether. For most galleries a website is supportive – a beautiful interactive marketing tool to entice art lovers through their gallery doors.

Art Gallery SW was set up in 2018 by Robert Guest, a keen art collector. When he retired from business he saw an opportunity to develop something that was missing from the art world. His experiment now showcases 120 artists earning a growing audience – as well as those all-important sales.

Read the Stars Alan Williamson

Read the Stars Alan Williamson - Credit: Alan Williamson

This year has seen the biggest increase in sales, he says. “One surprise has been that we not only sell to the South West, but also throughout the UK and abroad. We are very fortunate to have received excellent reviews, which has raised our profile and given buyers confidence in the gallery.

“The gallery was set-up to showcase the immense diversity of art in the South West. The beauty of online galleries is that they avoid the confinement of four walls, so have the freedom to showcase a huge range of art. Another unique feature of the gallery is that it encourages direct contact between the buyer and artist, allowing customers the choice to buy online or by viewing the art in person.”

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From a young teenager, Robert Guest would love nothing more than to visit art galleries and remembers the incredible feeling of wonder after visiting his first gallery.

Alongside its online gallery, Art Gallery SW has organised art exhibitions in aid of various charities. Last year, three exhibitions, in Exeter, Dorchester and Truro raised around £3,000 for charities. An online exhibition this year in aid of Children’s Hospice South West, will continue until 31 December.

Chris Moulder Trevose Head

Chris Moulder Trevose Head - Credit: Archant

Art Gallery SW has even set up interactive features on its site, allowing buyers to visualise how artwork would look at home in their setting. Customers can send in a photo of a wall at their home, and Art Gallery SW will digitally insert the artwork.

The website averages more than 1,000 visitors a day – and there are plans for a pop-up shop next year.

“Everything is so exciting at this stage and we’re blessed to have such a supportive network of artists pushing us forwards. We thoroughly look forward to what the next few years will bring!”

Pool on the River Fowey Tom Paddle

Pool on the River Fowey Tom Paddle - Credit: Tom Paddle

Meet some of Cornwall’s artists

 Mixed media artist Tracey Platt works from her home studio near Truro. Looking for a hobby, her mother – a painter – suggested collage. “Wasn’t this just sticking pieces of paper down and creating a picture?” she asked. “I did some research and studied lots of collage artists and discovered there was a whole new world to this type of art. This started with me creating my own painted papers and soon I was hooked, creating vibrant work... Why does a dog need to be brown when it can be a hot pink?

Colour plays a big part in my life and this is evident in my work. I love to experiment with different materials, not always knowing what I will end up with.”

Stuart Parker Tea for Two

Stuart Parker Tea for Two - Credit: Archant

Chris Moulder joined the Plymouth Watercolour Society when he retired and many workshops and exhibitions have followed – alongside a move from Plymouth to North Cornwall and experimenting with techniques using watercolour, acrylic and mixed media.

“The stunning coastline in this part of Cornwall has encouraged me to paint a series of seascapes in acrylic on deep edge canvas,” he says of his current online work.

Kirsten Elswood is a contemporary, semi-abstract landscape painter, primarily painting in acrylic or oil, whose work sells internationally. Her work is redolent of the Cornish landscape, evoking memories of place. Her work is rich in texture shape and line.

Carol Burns - Blue Series (2020)

Carol Burns - Blue Series (2020) - Credit: Carol Burns

She studied Fine Art in Exeter and continued her professional development at Newlyn Art School. She currently lives in Penzance.

Alan G Williamson – better known as Al Cazu – has travelled much of the world and sailing. He arrived in Cornwall in 1996 and has since painted much of the Cornish coastline and landscapes around the South West. He has lectured and taught art and design, along with exhibiting his own work throughout Europe and the US. His artwork is not restricted to nature, it often carries a philosophical narrative and sometimes even political.

Stuart Parker has moved away from carefully curated still life paintings and moved onto found curation – or as he likes to consider it “as is”.

“I started to ‘look’ at different things and natural placement.”

Tom Paddle studied painting at Coventry School of Art and exhibited and undertook various projects while living in rural East Sussex. Now based in Cornwall, music has played a big part in his life from playing guitar in blues influenced bands such as The Whailing Snails and The Taylors. He later expanded into folk and mediaeval music, indulging himself by learning a variety of different instruments and performing in period costume at historic festivals.

Carol Burns holds a BA and Master’s degree in Fine Art and is editor of Cornwall Life.

In her art practice she is inspired by the light and horizons that dominate the South West and works in oil paint, usually on board.

“Abstract art is about having a strong emotion to colour and texture,” she says. “It sounds simple: if they perfectly balance, the painting will please the eye; done badly it will irritate.

“My art takes inspiration from the natural and built world. Everything is up for grabs: the ocean, the human body, the shadows on a building...

“My current work focuses on the colour blue - it is an abstract colour: it surrounds us: the sky, the sea, but we can’t touch it.”