Thursday, 3 September 2009

Through the Keyhole - Niamh Collins Gallery

Niamh Collins feels very privileged to have moved into her new gallery space on Christmas Steps in central Bristol in the spring of this year. Niamh says ' I was taking my son to the hairdressers at the bottom of the Steps, and as we walked home, I found this empty gallery, with a 'To Let' sign in the window.At the time, along with a group of other artists, I was looking for a place to show and sell the work of Bristol artists, and this was perfect. Later, the other artists dropped out of the project, but I decided I loved the place so much, I would move my studio in there (to a room at the back), and have a beautiful space to show my own work on a permanent basis.'

Niamh opens the gallery 3 days a week, and the rest of the time works in the privacy of the studio. One of the reasons she fell in love with it was the courtyard garden - surprisingly large and yet secluded, considering it is right in the centre of the city. There is a back door from the studio to the garden, so Niamh can sit and work while watching the wildlife outside; 'The other evening a cheeky fox strolled by and looked in at me through the door!'

Christmas Steps is a very unusual and special place. It is a fascinating area, dating back to the 1600's. A stone plaque at the top states that this ancient street was 'Steppered Done and Finished September 1669'. It was once called 'Lonsford Steps', after the Royalist Colonel Henry Lonsford, who died there in 1643 during the Civil War.
It is also famous for it's many creative businesses and independent shops, and there are many excellent restaurants, bars and cafes.Nimh was surprised to find that many people live there, above the shops, and there is a welcoming and thriving community of people, who take great pride in the area (see

Niamh's gallery space is quite unusual - because it is built on a steep slope, it is on two levels, with a wooden railing in between. The ceiling is low, and there are exposed beams, which give the place great character. There is also a huge fireplace, but Niamh's larger canvasses are stacked in front of it so it can't be seen in any of these images.
Niamh's favourite 'room' is the garden! The premises had been empty for over a year, so the garden was very overgrown when she moved in, and Niamh loved the challenge of rescuing a neglected garden and finding hidden treasures in the undergrowth.

At the moment Niamh is concentrating more on abstract work, but the paintings currently showing in the windows are mostly landscapes, including some small canvasses of the Seven Sisters near Brighton. Niamh says 'I was inspired to do these after walking along the coast there recently. There are other coastal landscapes - from Cornwall, Scotland and Australia, and some Scottish mountain paintings.'

Also on show in the gallery are some mosaic mirrors which Niamh makes from carefully selected recycled and vintage china. She also sells handpainted greeting cards which are mini paintings really, and are usually made from bigger paintings which have been chopped up.

Niamh's dog, Holly, likes to go everywhere with her, and sometimes pops out for a wander round the other shops and galleries on the Steps in the hope of finding an unattended sandwich.

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