There’s a curious shop window on Fore Hill, in Ely. Pause outside and you’ll see an intriguing selection of delicate paintings and etchings hanging in the window. Sometimes there’s a cat stretched out in the sunshine too, its beautiful ginger fur pressed up against the glass.
There’s no sign above the door – is it house, a studio or a gallery?
It’s actually all three. This is the home of Ely artist, Melanie Goemans. As well as providing a place for her cat Pixie to enjoy the sunshine, the front window of her house is a perfect miniature exhibition space for her work.
Step through Melanie’s front door and discover a hidden world
Nestled behind the sweet Georgian shopfront is a fascinating home, parts of which date back to Tudor times. It’s a hidden oasis of stone floors, peaceful courtyards and old curved staircases – all right in the middle of a busy shopping street. Melanie moved in two years ago with her husband and three children, plus Pixie the cat and two dogs.
Over tea and delicious brownies from her neighbours at the Samovar Tea House, we talk about Melanie’s life as a painter and printmaker
Her days often start with a walk down to the river, which is just a short stroll from the house. It’s here in the sparse fenland landscape that Melanie finds her inspiration. While walking, little things catch her eye and her imagination – anything from the movement of a branch against the grey sky, the fleeting swoop of a passing bird or the hazy morning light on Ely Cathedral.
Fleeting moments are precious treasures
Back in her studio, Melanie brings these moments to life with traditional materials and techniques like oil paint, gesso, gold leaf and etching. On my visit, three huge canvases stretch across one wall. It’s a new work called Hawthorn Triptych. A hawthorn tree stretches across the boards, its spiky branches reproduced in meticulous details. Melanie has been working on it for weeks, projecting a photograph she took on her phone across the wall.
There is a fierce reverence in Melanie’s work
At first glance, Melanie’s etchings and paintings appear as simple and sparse as the Fenland landscapes that inspire them. Yet, there is a fierce reverence in Melanie’s work that belies the humble subject matter. The more I looked at Hawthorn Triptych, the more I see its hidden depths. The tiny, deft brushstrokes have captured the hazy beauty of a wintery morning in Ely – when the air is thick and damp, and the cathedral looms on the horizon like a dark smudge. Melanie has given this fleeting moment status and value.
What’s in the Window Gallery?
Melanie’s work is displayed in galleries all over the country but maintaining her tiny window gallery is just as important to her. After years spent working as an artist-in-residence, maintaining a strong connection to her surroundings comes naturally to Melanie. Passers-by can expect to see regularly changing miniature exhibitions in the window. Sometimes there will be one big painting, other times you’ll see a selection of Melanie’s beautiful etchings of flowers and seed heads.
I love that Melanie has also created placemats and coasters featuring her images – making it easier for people with smaller budgets to enjoy her art.
Now you can see inside Melanie’s studio too
This summer Melanie will be opening her doors for two special open studio events on 6 & 7 July, 10am-5pm. For more details, and to get in touch with Melanie, click here.