For the last of our interviews with artists exhibiting at the Talented Art Fair, we talk to London artist Michelle Heron whose paintings beautifully capture the fast-disappearing shop fronts of the traditional British High Street.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Michelle Heron and I’m a painter living in London.
What is your background?
I grew up in the suburbs of Norwich and escaped to study Fine Art at the University of Hertfordshire where I completed a degree in 2002. Since graduating, I have shown my paintings at various exciting places including Hampton Court Palace, Tower Bridge and The Royal Academy.
How would you describe your work?
My paintings have always been of the world around me; my early work was of bungalows, garages and alleyways, the suburban, the mundane and the overlooked. In my current practice I make photo-realistic paintings of London shop fronts. I have a fondness for painting old shops that are closing down, I try to capture the individuality and charm of these places before they are lost to modern development.
Talk us through your creative process.
I begin by taking photographs and if I’m not familiar with the area I’ll revisit it at different times before I catch the right light effect and to also get a feel for the place. I like to create a bit of drama in the painting with shadows, I think the contrast of the light and dark adds an almost theatrical atmosphere to the empty buildings. When I go about London with my camera I have to plot where the sun will be positioned at a particular time in order to catch the right effect. Sometimes it will take me weeks to find the right composition due to the weather or if there are any parked cars, you need a lot of patience! I then spend several days or weeks working from that photograph using acrylic paint. I used to exaggerate the colours on Photoshop to remove the shops from their reality but now I think they are beautiful as they are and don’t need to changed.
Who and what are your biggest influences?
One of my favourite painters growing up was Edward Hopper and I can remember the first time my art teacher showed me his iconic painting ‘Early Sunday Morning’ and immediately I was drawn to the shadows and light. I also love Rembrandt and always wanted to be able to paint like him. Growing up in suburbia influenced me too, I think being constricted by the landscape forced me to look harder at the mundane and everyday objects.
Who would you say are your favourite contemporary artists?
I’m a big admirer of George Shaw’s enamel paintings, especially the ones of his suburban home town of Coventry, which were a big inspiration for me when I was studying for my degree. I also love David Hockney for his bold colours and work ethic. I’ve always admired Rachel Whiteread’s work of the mundane and everyday but also for her tenacity and ambitious castings. I loved her recent exhibition at Tate Britain, it felt very moving.
What makes you get up and create art?
I feel very lucky to have this talent and am glad I kept at it, I’m constantly driven to keep improving and learning. I feel like I owe it to the people who like and buy my work. it’s lovely to think that something I’ve created out of nothing gives people joy. I also feel like I would probably go a bit crazy if I didn’t paint! It really centres me and calms my mind, when it’s going well that is!
What will you be showing at Talented Art Fair?
I will be showing new paintings, including one of a pie and mash shop in Deptford and another one of a haberdashery shop in Dalston. I will also have a selection of older paintings, and some limited edition prints of my other shop paintings, as I want my work to be accessible and affordable.
Michelle Heron will be exhibiting at the Talented Art Fair from 2 to 4 March, The Old Truman Brewery, Shoreditch, London E1 6QR