Indoor: You say pig shed, we say art gallery

Abstract paintings on a working farm? Catherine Stebbings visits a gallery with a difference
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The Independent Online
A pig shed on a working farm in the Cotswolds is an unlikely yet striking setting for a serious contemporary art gallery. Recent exhibitions and a lively summer show at Merriscourt Gallery are attracting art collectors from all over the country.

The gallery is run by Nick Clements, a specialist picture-framer, and Hermione Owen, a painter. "We're unconventional types who wanted to show paintings that we admired but felt were not being shown - and we wanted to do so in a rather different way," explains Nick.

The display of abstract and representational art looks entirely worthy of a Cork Street gallery in London. Huge, energetic oils by Julian Bailey and intensely coloured Indian scenes by Susan-Jayne Hocking are among the paintings currently on show.

The bolder the better, as far as Nick is concerned. "I like it when they slap the paint on, being a bit wild about it, and really enjoy themselves," he says. The gallery is a relaxed, unpretentious place where visitors can feel at home. Walkers pop in leaving rows of muddy boots on the doorstep; dogs and children play in the courtyard around Paul Grellier's cast-iron Toll Tower.

Yet, for all the laid-back atmosphere, this is a serious outlet for art. The intention is to appeal not so much to the connoisseur as to those who are relatively new to the art market. And Hermione points out: "that gives us some licence with what we can show."

The gallery is well worth a visit from anyone thinking of embarking on an art collection, unsure of where to start and what to buy. Neither the place nor the prices are inhibiting. The artists shown here are exciting, intriguing and accomplished, yet charges range from pounds 250 to pounds 4,000. Here looking at pictures is fun and buying paintings is rewarding. Not surprisingly, people tend to come back for more.

Paintings and shows change frequently. A number of painters, including Hermione herself, are often exhibited here, but the gallery is also always introducing fresh talent. Future plans include a retrospective of Andre Bicat (1909-1996) and one-man shows by Arthur Neal, Julian Bailey and Vince Tutton.

Merriscourt Gallery is at Merriscourt Farmhouse, Churchill, near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire OX7 6QX (01608 659734)

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