We met up with Ellie Jones, owner of the unique Andelli Art gallery…
Andelli Art is a very special gallery. It is run by Ellie Jones and situated in her own family home: a former Victorian hospital on the outskirts of Wells. Regularly showing work by RWA Academicians in its group and solo shows, it is real favourite amongst the Friends and the south west contemporary art community.
Here’s our Q&A…
How did you come to open a gallery in your own home?
Andelli Art began in 2010 from our home in Crouch End, North London. Along with my partner, Andy, we had been steadily collecting art over the previous ten years. The premise for Andelli Art was, initially, simply a way of rotating and building on the personal collection we had amassed. We didn’t have a gallery space back then, so we showed clients around the entire house to view artworks.
I was working as a designer in Covent Garden and developing Andelli Art in my spare time. I had enjoyed being in graphic design, collaborating on inspiring projects with talented photographers, illustrators, designers and writers, but after 25 years I was ready for a change in direction and location. We decided to move to Wells, and found a wonderful property that would enable us to develop a gallery and allow us to enjoy a more fulfilling lifestyle.
How do you find and choose the artists you show?
Our ethos is to show only work, and artists, we love. We choose works of quality that we connect with, and appreciate enough to display within our home environment. The important thing is to respond to what we like. We promote art as a way to inspire and enrich and always aim to deliver a memorable art experience with each exhibition.
We exhibit both Twentieth Century and contemporary work in group or solo shows. One of our annual group shows, ‘Figures & Faces’, is a figurative exhibition showcasing artists’ enduring fascination with the human form. This ‘theme’ enables us to present an exhibition of diverse styles, mediums and techniques and artists have included RWA Academicians Malcolm Ashman and Leslie Glenn Dahmus.
With each show we put on, we’re finding that artists we’ve connected with will introduce us to other artists they think might be a good ‘fit’ with our gallery. We also discover artists through Instagram, word-of-mouth, by visiting artist studios, shows and art fairs.
I am interested in contemporary artists who have a fresh way of looking at the world, whether they are local or from further afield, new on the scene or already established and in the gallery arena. It’s a pleasure to be able to identify an artist we appreciate and then, by showing their work, become part of their journey.
One such artist is Daniel Sequiera, who is a young and very talented portrait painter. We held his first solo show [above] and his work was very well received and sold out. By the time we held his second show, his paintings had developed and grown (in scale and ambition). Daniel is one to watch, and we’re convinced he has a bright future.
How is it living with your gallery?
The gallery feels like an extension of our home as we have a large, evolving, collection of paintings, sculpture and ceramics throughout the living space. We do get attached to having art on our walls, and living amongst it, so it’s a bit of a wrench when an artwork has to move on.
We enjoy showing the art in the comfort of our home. It provides a relaxed environment which is informal than other gallery spaces.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your own gallery?
We generally rely on our client base building as our reputation grows, but this can take time. Our biggest challenge is visitor numbers. Having a gallery at home means that we won’t have the foot-fall that can be expected in a more obviously commercial space. Although the upside is that we are not be under the financial pressures that a high street gallery might face. Outside of our designated shows, we will happily welcome visitors by appointment. We are aware that for some, walking into a new gallery might seem intimidating, but we encourage visitors to come and meet us, and browse with no pressure to buy.
You recently exhibited Stewart Geddes, President of the Royal West of England Academy, can you tell us about that exhibition?
A joy! Stewart’s solo exhibition [below] was vibrant, full of energy and a real success. It was his first show with the gallery and featured paintings in his distinctively urgent style – demonstrating his passion for colour and textural surfaces. It was really exciting to visit Stewart’s studio in the run-up to the exhibition… to view the works-in-progress, and get a sense of how enthused Stewart was by the development of the body of work. Stewart held some very engaging and illuminating artist talks during the show, which added another dimension to the exhibition.
What does it mean to run a contemporary art gallery from a small city?
Since we moved to Wells, we have seen the art community develop here. The arrival of Hauser & Wirth in nearby Bruton has undoubtedly been of huge benefit to the exposure of contemporary art in Somerset. More locally, there are a few galleries and artist studios in Wells, and we are all supportive of one another, helping to enhance the area’s artistic reputation.
We have been delighted to see the development of Wells Art Contemporary (WAC), an International Open competition which Andelli Art is a sponsor of the Next Generation prize. This year WAC was exhibited in Wells Cathedral, and that resulted in 25,000 visitors being exposed to a rich assortment of contemporary art.
What do you like most about running Andelli Art?
Curating the shows is probably the most satisfying thing about running Andelli Art. Especially when we are working in collaboration with the artists, and working together to produce a show that we are all proud of. It’s important to build strong relationships with the artists you show.
What exhibitions do you have coming up?
We are excited to present Back to the Future IV [above and top] which is a group exhibition showing the work of four contemporary artists who studied together at the acclaimed Jacob Kramer Foundation Course in Leeds in the 1969/70. 50 years later, almost to the day, Kathy Dalwood, Susanna Lisle, Robin Sewell and Peter Webster are reunited in this exhibition. This show runs from 21 September–6 October, open Wednesday–Sunday 10am–5pm.
In November we have a solo show by Minyoung Choi. Choi’s facinating paintings explore aspects of time and place in the context of her memories. She is interested in creating surreal moments, making ordinary places or scenes become strange and mysterious.
Alongside the many and varied shows planned for 2020, we are delighted to be hosting a solo exhibition of RWA Academician, Margaret Lovell, in June. We have built up a great relationship with Margaret over the years and hold many of her sculptures in our personal collection.
Andelli Art — Mendip House, Upper Breach, South Horrington, Wells BA5 3QG T: 01749 572373 www.andelliart.com
Interview by Laurel Smart. Photo top by Robin Sewell