Michelle Heron is a figurative painter from Norfolk, UK. Following a degree in Fine Art at the University of Hertfordshire she spent the next 16 years in London. Her paintings have been exhibited at The Mall Galleries, London, The New Art Gallery, Walsall, Hampton Court Palace, London and The Royal Academy, London. In 2016 Michelle’s work was shortlisted for The Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize, The John Ruskin Prize and The National Open Art Competition and in 2017 was selected for The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. This year she has been selected to exhibit at the 157th Society of Women Artists Annual Open Submission Exhibition. Her paintings depict the British high street and in particular fast disappearing old shops. In recent years, neighbourhoods have changed and lost much of their individuality and charm to modern development. There were 15 shop closures a day in the UK across the first half of 2016, and the country is seeing its fastest rate of shop closures in four years due to a combination of high rents, stagnating wages and an increase in internet shopping. Michelle is also interested in painting other overlooked subjects on the streets such as street furniture and hopes to bring more awareness to what defines a high street and how rapidly they are changing.
In my practice I make paintings that document the rapidly changing British high street, especially fast disappearing old shops. I make semi-photorealistic paintings using acrylic paint. 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. There were 15 shop closures a day in the UK across the first half of 2016, and the country is seeing its fastest rate of shop closures due to a combination of high rents, stagnating wages and an increase in internet shopping. It is predicted that in the next two years 20,000 businesses could close.
I am also interested in painting other overlooked subjects on the streets such as street furniture and by doing so I hope to bring more awareness to what defines a high street and how rapidly they are changing. My work has always been inspired by the changing urban landscape I grew up in. I think the shop paintings grew from when I used to be a window dresser, I never really noticed shop fronts before. That led to me constantly look at shop fronts and architecture. Initially, I wanted to capture local icons simply because of their distinctive typefaces and how much they stood out to me aesthetically. But now, almost every time I take a photo or make a painting of a building within weeks it’s either being painted over or has closed down, even if it stood vacant for years like Zodiac Records in Wandsworth. Now, I like the idea that I’m immortilising these places in paint but at the same time I’m sad that the high street is changing so rapidly. Will those stories continue when there are just nail salons, vape shops and supermarket chains left?