On the one hand, Shelley Thornton is an artist drawn to colour, form and light and on the other, a businesswoman who advises organisations on governance and leadership. She is also a qualified accountant.
This seeming dichotomy simply reflects the circular journey of Shelley’s life. As a young child growing up in the urban, still industrial, badlands of South Yorkshire, natural beauty wasn’t always evident.
But she loved escaping into nature – to the sea on the rare family holiday, or on frequent trips into the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District with her father who ran a walking club. She made meticulous drawings of birds as a young child and developed a keen interest in form and function.
As a teenager exploring the rites of passage, she found a new direction for her painting. She started to move away from nature, still life and portraiture to the more surreal and abstract influenced by music, literature, arthouse cinema, and of course modern art.
Whilst her formal education is in economics, politics and social policy, Shelley has painted throughout her life and is largely self-taught. However, her education and ensuing career informs her artwork, as does the fact that her work has taken her all over the UK and internationally and given her perspectives that she wouldn’t otherwise have had. As well as Yorkshire, she has lived and painted in Cambridge, London, Surrey and now St Ives, Cornwall.
You could say she has lived and worked in the North, East, South and West of England.
The latter move to St Ives was inevitable from the first moment Shelley visited. The reason why so many artists are attracted to St Ives is because of the quality and purity of light. This isn’t a myth. It’s true. When you’re used to urban settings and grew up close to steel furnaces and coal mines where light pollution is heavy, the contrast is jaw-dropping. Having been a frequent visitor since that first visit, Shelley made the permanent move after the birth of her first child.
Whilst still drawing inspiration for her painting from her still frequent travels, a little bit of St Ives and West Cornwall always seeps into her work. Where her work differs from many Cornish landscape artists, however, is that there is a form and structure to it that is quite geometrical, architectural and industrial.
The two seemingly contrasting influences of Shelley’s blend together in her painting and make perfect sense.
Shelley has exhibited in several solo, joint and group shows in recent times, most notably at St Ives Arts Club, Maritime Gallery in Falmouth, Café Art and Salthouse Gallery in St Ives.