Shropshire: Chance encounter opens door to shopping centre art exhibition

A CHANCE encounter at a dental practice has led to a pop up art show in Shrewsbury’s Darwin Shopping Centre for aspiring artist Charlotte Richards.

And shoppers can commission a painting of themselves, their family or even their pets, when they visit the temporary gallery, which opened in the mall on Saturday, April 6.

The show, with its focus on how we view the world, will also form part of the Shrewsbury Arts Festival, which gets into full swing in the summer.

Fine art graduate Charlotte is working as a receptionist at St John’s Dental Practice, while building up her art portfolio – and mentioned it to Maggie Love, Artistic Director of Shropshire Youth Theatre, when she dropped in.

Charlotte was stunned when Maggie, who is also the Darwin Shopping Centre’s community coordinator, offered her the chance to open the pop-up gallery.

The 21-year-old said: “This is given me a wonderful opportunity to exhibit my pieces for six weeks. It is a real chance to get my work to a lot of people who may not consider visiting a gallery.

“I know there are a large number of shoppers who visit the centre every week and I will be hoping to get plenty of commissions for my work.”

Up to 20 art works, some more than 1.5m wide, will be on display in the pop-up gallery. Charlotte aims to be there as often as she can, between her day job at the dental practice, but she is free at weekends.

Maggie said: “I am delighted to find such a talented young portrait artist as I’m sure many people wish they had a portrait of themselves.

“Her work is vibrant and appealing so I hope she gets a few commissions.

“I have to give big thanks to the Shopping Centre’s management who have given the opportunity to promote artists and their work in the empty units.”

Kevin Lockwood, Manager of the Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside Shopping Centrse, said: “We’re keen here at Shrewsbury to make a visit to the shopping centres more than just a shopping trip.

“We’re very much part of the local community and the town has a thriving and vibrant artistic community and we want to reflect and encourage that at the shopping centres.”

After graduating from Cardiff University last summer with BA Honours in Fine Art, Charlotte moved back home to Crew Green in Shropshire to continue her art work.

She added: “I work in oil paint on wooden panels, canvas or paper. My current practice focuses on the subject of perception and sight. I have chosen to break free from traditional still life.

“My aim is to depict how the eye sees the world, as opposed to a camera’s reproduction of equal focus and perfection.

“When focusing on specific objects the peripheral vision tends to distort other images around this, for example to produce double vision.

“I have exhibited in different galleries since graduating from University; these include the Bear Steps in Shrewsbury, the Willow Street Gallery in Oswestry and in the National Trust’s Weston Park.”

Charlotte also recently headed back to her former school, Llanfyllin High School, to share her work with the pupils and give presentations on what university and art can offer.

She comes from an artistic family: her mum Lesley, who works as a dental nurse at the St John’s Practice, is also a trained upholsterer, and restores old furniture in her spare time, while Charlotte’s brother Dominic has completed a craft furniture degree at Carlisle, and her sister Sophia is studying fashion and textiles at Manchester. Dad Brian works for an insurance company.

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