Artist takes centre stage at his new gallery

Elles Gallery with John Elles.
Elles Gallery with John Elles.

An artist whose paintings depict an intriguing vision of Lancaster has opened up a gallery in the city.

The Elles Gallery, run by resident artist John Elles, is on Gage Street, just off Lancaster’s historic Dalton Square.

After a period of test trading John has fully opened the little gallery as a space to exhibit and sell his paintings of Lancaster scenes that are given a very different yet accessible treatment.

John, who was born in and lives in Lancaster, said: “In these local scenes I merge the modern townscape with 
elements of the past.

“The intention is to present a rich re-imagining of familiar places by manipulating the layers of time.”

Among the landmarks John has painted are Lancaster’s famous Ashton Memorial, the Quay with its Custom House, and Dalton Square 
itself. John favours warm colours - brown, orange and red feature prominently - though he also paints snowy scenes while one view of the Lancaster cityscape looks not unlike a shimmering Italian 

“I got the idea of mixing past and present from work done on movie sets, where the buildings remain but modern street furniture and signage are removed,” he said.

“I like to challenge perception, make people think about how they imagine the past to be. You could say I’m subverting reality.”

John, who has a degree in Landscape Architecture from Manchester Metropolitan University, added: “I used to work in architecture, producing artists’ impressions of schemes, and these skills help me re-imagine the past.”

The Elles Gallery features John’s original paintings in oil as well as limited edition prints - framed or unframed - and hand-embellished 

Alongside his Lancaster scenes John also paints pop culture icons such as Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, Amy Winehouse and David Bowie. Stuart Aikman, owner of the Town House Gallery, in Lancaster and Morecambe, where John had his first solo exhibition, ‘Cafe Culture’, which comprised a selection of his Lancaster paintings, in 2012 said: “No other artist in the area is producing work of this nature.

“He is exceptional – a unique, gifted artist.”

John, who cites his artistic influences as Hopper, Magritte and Godward, has some high-profile fans.

Kevin Roberts, New York-based Executive Chairman of advertising giant, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Owen Oyston, Lancashire businessman, have John’s paintings in their collections.

John has recently completed a portrait commission for Preston-born property magnate, John Morphet, while Lancaster-born comedian, Jon Richardson, also owns a painting of Moor Lane.

A loyal and growing ‘fan club’ also exists, of people who have collected John Elles’ work from when he started out in other local galleries before opening his own dedicated exhibition 

John Elles was born in Lancaster, on Halton Road, overlooking the River Lune in Skerton. He studied art at The Storey Institute, Lancaster’s college of art before going on to complete his degree. He worked for many years with master craftsman and interior designer, James Mackie of Mackies of Lancaster, primarily as a specialist painter on upmarket interior projects.

Locals may also know John through his other guise as drummer with the Hammond organ beat duo, Get Carter, who recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary with a gig starring former Supertramp saxophonist, John Helliwell.