ful inspection to find the visual pun or connection to its title. Campbell’s complex paintings, which could breathe life into any children’s book, are busy with different characters — be they animals, people and even birds — captured in the middle of a daily routine .
The artist’s sense of humor and color are reflected in her exhibition at the Chelsea Art Gallery in downtown Palo Alto . “Up the Garden Path,” which consists of 34 works especially created for this show, is on display until Nov. 27 in conjunction with “Travelling Light,” a series of abstract landscapes by Nicholas Jones. Both painters have already made names for themselves in their native Britain . But, they had never set foot in the Bay Area art community. And the goal of the emerging 4,000- square-foot Chelsea Gallery , which opened in September, is to make local art lovers aware that the British are coming .
Gallery director Suzanne Mohan plans to rotate in new exhibits every one to two months. For many artists from the United Kingdom , she said, showing work in California is a fantasy- come-true .
“The artists I’ve spoken to are very interested in the landscape — coasts, deserts,” Mohan said. “ California encompasses every type of landscape you can think of.” Last May, an art-collector pal of Mohan’s recommended she get in touch with Campbell . Mohan was instantly enchanted by a portfolio of garden and farming scenes that were reminiscent of home .
“It seemed very English,” she said .
“The work is just exquisite and detailed .
It’s very witty. Every time I look at it, I see something new.” Not one for painting still-life, Campbell , who trained at the City and Guilds of London Art School, finds bliss in adding playful layers to a panel. Part of the fun is getting eyes to rove, to absorb all the activity on the canvas and to “do a double take” when they spot another new detail. She credits her mother — who was a keen gardener, painter and at one time, donkey-breeder — for fostering a love of plant and pet life .
“I’m not full of angst,” Campbell said. “I like to enjoy life. I say ‘yes’ to everything.” And she had no problem saying ‘yes’ to creating 34 paintings in four months. She was impressed by Mohan’s enthusiasm. After committing to the show, she retreated to a 200- acre country house in Sussex for the summer where she set up a temporary studio, hitting the canvas almost daily from 9 a.m. until 7 pm .
To now see her works framed “jewel-like” on the gallery walls gives Campbell a nice high. And it also energizes Mohan’s plan to encourage artists to put the Bay Area on their itineraries .
“Art galleries tend to go to New York , Los Angeles and Miami ,” Mohan said. “But San Francisco gets left out. We’re hoping to become a venue for top London artists.” A London transplant, Mohan moved to Palo Alto five years ago to be with her new husband, a local resident .
Last year, while building an art collection for their four-year-old daughter, she conceived the idea of ferrying British art into the U.S .
Her increased reliance on Internet browsing got Mohan thinking about how many Palo Altans would enjoy purchasing modern British art after looking at it up-close. Plus, she already had solid relationships with several top gallery owners across the pond .
“The whole London art scene is a very close-knit circle,” Mohan said .
She and her three assistants are also enhancing their salesmanship with some high-tech touches. Two plasma screens continuously flash crisp, digital images, either from the current show or another exhibition in London . Visitors will even be able to bid on items that are abroad .
Rather than pay for shipping several items, the gallery will display one or two pieces representative of the artist’s form and style .
Named for the neighborhood where she used to live, the gallery has already grabbed attention of Peninsula art lovers. According to Mohan, more than 300 people turned out for the grand opening, an exhibition of Scottish painters. She also thinks their location off downtown’s main thoroughfare adds to the charm .
“I like not being on University Avenue ,” Mohan said. “We’re just a little off the beaten track.” ■