Shops join initiative to create art gallery with a difference

July 02 2017
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WELLS city centre is to become one big art gallery with paintings displayed in dozens of shop windows.

The Half Mile Gallery is the brainchild of Wells artist Chris Lee who approached traders with the plan for a very public display of his work, and he says they have embraced the idea with enthusiasm.

“I've been painting in Wells ever since I moved here six years ago, and have exhibited the work in many galleries, including a big one-man show at The Bishop's Palace and regularly at the A2 Gallery, but this time I wanted to share my love of Wells with a much bigger audience - everyone walking up the High Street,” he said. “Most my drawings are of the architecture of this beautiful city. Who else gets a cathedral, a palace and a moat in the city centre?”

So far 25 businesses have agreed to display work in their windows during Somerset Art Weeks, from September 23 to October 8.

“More shops will join I'm sure, as the enthusiasm was overwhelming,” said Chris.

“We obviously have some very far-seeing and generous businesses in Wells, and thanks to them all.”

Artist Chris Lee

Wells artist Chris Lee

Most of the pictures to be displayed will be Chris’ distinctive ‘wobbly’ work, many being images of Wells itself.

“All my work is drawn on location in pen and ink, then washed with watercolour, no photos, no pencil lines, no rubbers, just plop, straight in with the ink,” said Chris.

“I've become well known for my wobbly line work, which I put down to a very precarious three-legged stool, but can also be attributed to me looking at my watch and checking if the pub is open.”

The Half Mile Gallery will start in Sadler Street, at the Armandine Gallery, where Frances Harden will be showing her watercolours and photography in her studio above. The show then runs down Sadler Street, into the Market Square and down the High Street where it meanders down Broad Street and Queen Street and on to Priest Row.

“Every painting is for sale, and I think the show will open people's eyes to the beauty of our city. So many of the shops and pubs are architectural wonders in their own right, just look at The Crown,” said Chris.

A picture of The Crown at Wells by Chris Lee

A picture of The Crown at Wells by Chris Lee

Those that have already agreed to put pictures on display include Armandine Gallery, The Swan Hotel, Ensemble, Alexandra King, Liberty Café Bar, The Crown, Kitty Banks, Cadeaux & Co, Miles Morgan Travel, Waterstones, The Laundry, Santé Wines, Basil Powell Shoes, Thompson Carpets, Mercia Kitchens, Whiting & Son, Cinnamon Corner, Queen Street Deli, A2 Gallery and Lynnsey Kelly Flowers.

Wells Chamber of Commerce chairman Robert Powell said: “The chamber of commerce thinks this is a great idea, and it encourages the public to come into the city centre to participate in a living art gallery.”

There will be more work on display in Wells during Somerset Art Weeks in the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen and Heritage Courtyard galleries, as well as Frameus in Market Street.