How shoppers came to enter the art market

At the opening of Portraits from the Market at Yorkshire Artspace's Persistence Works Gallery, left to right,  Ivy Andrews, Nathaniel Nathaniel Kalombo and Peter Ward with painter Andrew Hunt and photographer Chris Saunders
At the opening of Portraits from the Market at Yorkshire Artspace's Persistence Works Gallery, left to right, Ivy Andrews, Nathaniel Nathaniel Kalombo and Peter Ward with painter Andrew Hunt and photographer Chris Saunders

One day last September shoppers at the Moor Market unexpectedly found themselves participating in an art project.

They were invited to pose for portrait photographer Chris Saunders and the pictures were later worked up into paintings by local artist Andrew Hunt.

The result is an exhibition, at Yorkshire Artspace’s Persistence Works Gallery, Portraits from the Market, which is the latest in the Ways of Making series aimed at showcasing contemporary visual art produced in the city.

Portraits from the Market comprises large-scale photo realistic paintings by Andrew of selected faces from the 60 photographs taken by Chris of people who visited or work at the Moor Market which are also on display.

During the exhibition period, from today, May 17, to June 24, the Persistence Works Gallery will become Andrew’s studio, so visitors will be able to watch him complete the portraits and share and experience the process of how he captures the expression and character of each subject.

Explains Andy: “Since the Market moved to the Moor, I’ve been a regular visitor and it has become a constant source of inspiration for the narrative of my figurative work. I want this exhibition to represent my local Sheffield community and as a consequence say something about our society in modern Britain.”

He recruited Chris as a collaborator and the pair occupied one of the market stalls for a day last September. Rather than advertising ahead they wanted to record stallholders and visitors who were there to use the market. They found the people who were asked to sit for a photograph enthusiastic and accommodating.

‘We have a cross-section of different ages, gender and diversity in the 60 portraits and. I have selected 10 of them for the paintings purely for visual reasons rather than who they were,” says Andy.

Some turned out to have interesting stories but he only learned that later.

The ages range from 94 to nine. The oldest is therefore Ivy Andrews from Stannington who is one of the Women of Steel and for many years worked on a fruit and veg stall on the old Castle Market. These days she suffers from glaucoma and was taken that day to the market by volunteers from the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind market. “We were just walking round when these two people enticed me into their tent,” she laughs, “I was quite surprised to be asked to be photographed but I think they have done a good job.”

The nine-year-old, Nathaniel Kalombo, was on holiday from St Mary’s, Walkley, and was sitting with his mother, Nengararivo, who runs a stall in the market selling fabrics and African arts and crafts. The invitation to have his photo taken was a welcome diversion which has resulted in seeing himself in a massive portrait and now the bonus of being interviewed on local radio and TV.

His striking baseball cap marked out Peter Ward from Gleadless who goes to the market a couple of times a week. “For me it’s like a meeting place,” says the retired electrical operative who was recruited in the café next to where Andy and Chris set up shop..

“Showing these works together celebrates this busy marketplace and the diverse community of our city,” reflects Andy.

Portraits from the Market is at Persistence Works. Brown Street, from today, May 17, 11am-7pm and then Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-4pm until June 24.