We Meet The Artists Behind Shaftesbury’s New Pop Up Shop

Could an outdoor art gallery, similar to Bournemouth’s Pine Walk, work well on Shaftesbury’s Park Walk? Alfred’s Keri Jones calls in on the husband and wife duo behind the High Street’s latest pop up shop.

John Dimech and Ruth Paris have been selling their art in the Swan’s Yard Cygnet Gallery since October. The Sturminster Newton-based couple are well-established and experienced artists. Their differing styles add variety to the colourful displays filling the former Gilyard Scarth Estate Agents.

“I do lot of the Dorset landscape, which I have been doing for a long time. A few years back I started abstract as well. We’re both in love with Dorset, whereas Ruth likes to tell a story more with her paintings,” said John.

“I like detail. Whether I’m doing a portrait and I get the highlights or the lines, or whether I’m telling a story. That’s my kind of work,” said Ruth.

John Dimech and Ruth Paris

The pair operated a gallery in John’s native Malta for five years. John has been in the UK for thirty years and he used to manage Bournemouth’s Pine Walk, a summertime art exhibition, which has been adding extra colour to the town’s Lower Gardens for almost sixty years.

“There are forty spaces there and over a hundred artists are applying throughout summer. I was there every day, so that if somebody came, I could tell them, ‘yes, you can have this space’. I would book them, take the money and deal with the Council afterwards. I did it for eight years only because then I found a place in Poole Pottery, where I was the resident artist,” said John.

Ruth reckons a Pine Walk style art display would be perfect for Shaftesbury’s Park Walk. “I think it would work incredibly well. I think that we have the capability of it. Enough people come into Shaftesbury. It would give them something else to visit, rather than just Gold Hill and the Abbey. It can be advertised for that and I think it’s a nice opportunity for other artists to be able to showcase their work in a beautiful setting,” she said.

The pop-up gallery

Ruth, who comes from Dorset, knows Shaftesbury well. She believes our hilltop town has plenty of potential as an arts destination. “It’s very cultural. There is so much history wrapped around it and there is a spiritual feel. The art goes with both the culture and with the spirituality that you feel around the place,” said Ruth.

The pop-up gallery is definitely going to remain open over the next few weeks. Its future is uncertain at this stage, but John and Ruth would like to become a more permanent fixture of a High Street already rich with independent shops.

“We’re initially here for this week and next week and we’ll see whether we can come to some arrangement with our landlord, to see whether he likes us here or wants us here for longer. We initially wanted this for the Fringe. We wanted to be part of it. We love Shaftesbury. There’s a lot more potential. Hopefully we can contribute to that,” said John.