Doncaster Corn Exchange becomes art centre as artists bring their studios to the market

It’s traditionally been where you go to buy anything from household linens, fashion and furnishing to cups of tea.

Chinwe Russell, pictured at the Doncaster Corn Exchange. Picture: NDFP-18-12-18-MarketArtists-1
Chinwe Russell, pictured at the Doncaster Corn Exchange. Picture: NDFP-18-12-18-MarketArtists-1

Going further, it’s seen Elgar conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, and a young Winston Churchill speaking about his experiences during the Boer War.

But now, the Corn Exchange, at Doncaster Market is seeing yet another role in its varied history.

Chinwe Russell, pictured at the Doncaster Corn Exchange. Picture: NDFP-18-12-18-MarketArtists-1

For the next few months, its also going to be where you can go see Doncaster’s answers to the likes of Picasso and Rembrandt in action.

Under a new project, several painters, photographers, and digital artists, will be using the 19th century Victorian landmark as their studio, as they carry out their work as artists.

The project follows on from a recent project based in some of the market place pubs, the Doncaster Emerging and Professional Art Fair.

It means visitors to the venue will be able to watch on as the painters do their brushwork, and ask them questions about what they’re doing.

For the artists, it also may help them sell their work. The artists will change over time.

The scheme has been set up by the artist Chinwe Russell, from Town Moor.

Chinwe, aged 48, moved to Doncaster two years ago, and started working as a professional artist last year.

Before that, she had been painting as a hobby, since first trying her hand in art in 2007.

It has been a big turnaround for her.

In the past, she has worked for big banks including Citibank and Lloyds at locations around the works including London, Paris, and Nigeria.

She moved from France in 2015, after starting her own skin care business, living in Paris, and then Lille.

She moved to Doncaster because it was affordable, and a pleasant place to live.

“There is a lot going on in Doncaster in the arts sector,” she said. “We held an arts fair near the market, with people representing themselves.

“After the first Doncaster arts fair, I was given the opportunity to bring art to the empty units, to make it more interesting.

“Art in many towns has been an agent for change, and I think we are looking for something like that here.

“We have rallied round with some of the town’s artists moving in and setting up for work here. Doncaster has an energetic and professional arts scene.

“We’ve got artists taking part who have never exhibited before, and people who have changed their careers.”

Chinwe herself was a finalist in the Global Art Award which took place in Dubai in November. 

She paints pictures which tell stories. As the Free Press interrviewed her she was working on a painting called Farewell in Poppyfields, based on World War One.

Other work on exhibition included Clowns of Westminster, based on the Houses of Parliament and Brexit.

“This will break down barriers between the people and the artists,” she said. “People talk to you as you work.”

Former council officer Gareth Pendry, from Town Moor, was working in the next booth. He was working on what is his first exhibition, a photographer exhibition called Juxtaposition.

He said: “This is a new thing for me. I recently took early retirement due to my health. I’ve been able to meet up with other artists. It’s been really fulfilling.”

Just down the row, digital artist Terry Senior brings in a computer to work on his images as people watch on.

He has been artist for 25 years, and lived in London for 15 years. He now lives in Woodlands, Doncaster.

His work hangs from the walls. On one image, a manipulated picture of St Paul’s Cathedral in London with a crane in the background has been arranged to look as though the crane is lifting the building’s famous Dome from the rest of the building.

He had taken the picture after getting the idea as he passed the scene.

He said: “At first when I came here to the corn exchange it was just about selling. But now I bring the computer down to work here. It attracts interest.

“I was trained as a photographer initially, but then I got intested in computers. I took a computer science degree and now I combine the two.”

Across the floor of the building, in another unit, is Graham Firth.

Graham is well known to a generation of Doncaster artists –he  was a Doncaster College lecturer before recently retiring.

His specialism is printing, using ink.

Using the same sort of linoleum that people used to to make floors, he carves out his own wooden printing plates.

One of Graham’s first acts after retiring was to build his own printing press, using wood and a screw-down mechaism to apply the ink to the the canvas.

He bases his prints on sketches that he draws while he is out and about in Doncaster.

He creates complicated prints using six colours, applying each layer of ink over the previous layer after it has dried.

He has done many exhibitions over the years.

“Working in front of an audience does not bother me,” he said. “I’m enjoying the experience – I love it. My workspace here looks just like my shed.”