Getting to the art of the matter with growing Dalkeith art gallery

Artist Claire Williamson at Riccio Gallery, South Street, Dalkeith'' with gallery owner Carlo Riccio.
Artist Claire Williamson at Riccio Gallery, South Street, Dalkeith'' with gallery owner Carlo Riccio.

From the outside it looks just like your average shop on a Dalkeith street but hidden behind the doors is an explosion of colour and beauty with an array of artworks on show to the public.

The Riccio Gallery is primarily a picture framing shop based in South Street.

However, the owner, Carlo Riccio, has been turning it into a major venue to bring art into the middle of the town.

He said: “I started my gallery dream when I took over the premises in July 2000. It was really just a picture framing shop back then.

“It wasn’t the gallery as it is now.

“It really only developed about 18 months ago though. That’s when I started to exhibit original artwork – hosting exhibitions with open evenings and cheese and wine nights.

“That wasn’t really until I started getting some help from an artist, Linda Sheridan, who helped me with the administration side of it all.

“She has been an absolute godsend. She knows a lot about the art world. We have just arranged the rest of this year’s exhibitions, so that’s us fully booked until 2017.

“There are three areas to the gallery. The main space is where people walk in the shop. As soon as they walk in, bang, it’s right there in front of them.

“It’s maybe about five metres deep and about nine to ten metres long. Maybe even more than that.

“Then we have got the central space which is a bit smaller, but that’s where we have our custom framing area. We hang pictures there also.

“Through the back we have got what we call the ‘inner space’ – it’s a square room, about four square metres in size. We hang stuff there too.

“So we have a lot of space to showcase art, and we make full use of it.”

Carlo is proud that he has been able to bring art to Dalkeith, not only for local people to see, but to bring enthusiasts from further afield into the town.

He said: “I set up the gallery in South Street to give up-and-coming artists the opportunity to show their work and create an oasis of art in the very centre of Dalkeith.

“It’s important for Dalkeith to have culture and to bring people into the town.

“And when they realise there is an art gallery exhibiting certain artists then they spread the word and tell other people.

“It’s very good for Dalkeith.’’

Previous exhibitions have enjoyed a good response. The last event attracted 40 different artists who took over the entire gallery.

Added Carlo: ‘‘We had to stop people at the door on the opening night as it was just too busy.’’

Riccio Gallery’s latest exhibition showcases the work of Claire Williamson who Carlo spotted at her Three Harbours Festival exhibition.

“She does a lot of sea life,’’ he said. ‘‘A lot of sea birds in particular ... and lots of boats.

“She is a hidden talent so I want to give her some exposure just as I do with every artist we have on here.”

Edinburgh-born Claire is excited about her debut solo show.

She said: “Painting outside, often in wind and rain helps me paint intuitively and spontaneously. There is always a sense of urgency to try to capture something before it disappears.

‘‘When I paint, everything else in life is forgotten about and all that matters is how I can reveal the world I’m in at that moment. When I feel I have achieved this it is magical.’’

Claire finished a two-year full-time painting course at Leith School of Art in 2013 where she won a two-week residency at Dumfries House in Ayrshire.

She was awarded the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) Seabird drawing bursary last year which allowed her to visit bird colonies on the Firth of Forth to study and draw here.

She said: “Now I have my own studio in Leith and look forward to what lies ahead in my paintings and my career in art.”

You can see the paintings and meet Claire on Friday at the exhibition launch, 7-9 pm at the Riccio Gallery, South Street, Dalkeith.

‘Claire Willamson Birds, Boats, Blue’ then continues 10am-4pm Monday to Saturday until September 21.