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Nigel Fletcher

Green pastures, the wild sea and travels beyond

Oxfordshire Artweeks is a home-grown treat like a garden that comes into bloom in the spring
Oxfordshire Artweeks 7th-30th May

"Angela Beatson Wood uses her oils to put experiences of India and the Far East onto canvas"

At Oxfordshire Artweeks you can wander through the colours of the flower-beds and stop at the allotment or marvel at the magnificence of the giant skies and age-old landscapes, enjoy the Oxfordshire countryside, both physically as you venture from place to place enjoying the Artweeks festival or through the pictures the county’s artists have created and are welcoming you in to share.

Caroline Chappell from Middleton Cheney near Banbury is the latest winner of the Artweeks’ Mary Moser prize, an award for an artist who has taken up art as a second career later in life. Chappell spent many years as principal art teacher at The Warriner School in Bloxham nr Banbury. ‘I loved working with the young people but teaching and raising a daughter left little time for my own art,’ says Caroline. ‘It wasn’t until I took early retirement that I was able to devote the time to develop my painting and make a profession of it.’

Caroline Chappell from Middleton Cheney near Banbury is the latest winner of the Artweeks’ Mary Moser prize

Chappell trained as a potter originally, a craft where she literally took the land in your hand, digging the clay out herself and creating art from the earth itself. Always interested in the landscape and the way human generations have left their mark upon it, Chappell later enrolled on an Oxford University Further Education course ‘Walking the Past’, which she found a fascinating introduction to our local landscape, and Oxfordshire’s hill forts, henges and standing stones.

And now, working in the heart of a new eco-home that she designed herself around the life of a modern-day artist and using paint that includes pigment ground from Oxfordshire stone, Chappell records the intangible ‘sense of place’ that springs from the prehistoric land beneath our feet, inspired by the ancient landscapes and the hidden traces of our past.

‘The surface of the land provides the clues to what has gone before,’ Chappell explains. ‘For example, you can see the ridges of ancient ridge and furrow agriculture picked out in stark contrast as the sun sets and the shadows lengthen. Standing alone, hearing the landscape as I sketch, I feel tiny, in comparison to the grandeur and enormity of these ancient views.’

And at the edge of these rolling local landscapes, you’ll find the waves lapping as the coast is brought in-land on canvas, so your holiday can come back home with you! In Little Barrington, near Burford, a new collection of paintings explores the dynamic beauty & brutality of the coast, in an exhibition by Philippa Dickens Where the Sea meets the Land in all its Beauty".

Here in a light studio on a village green, enjoy the feeling of open space and the sense of peace and solitude that an overwhelming sky over a blue sea can bring. The essence of Dicken’s approach to painting is the portrayal of the emotion that light brings. With oil as her medium of choice she loves the ability to build layers, often abandoning the brush in favour of knife mixing and moving the paint across the panel to give depth and movement. The final subtlety can be reached only with fingertips, softening and blending glazes to create a pool of water or a stunning sky.

In contrast, Angela Beatson Wood uses her oils to put experiences of India and the Far East onto canvas with still-life portrayals of the artefacts she has brought home that illustrate the cultural differences she has discovered when travelling and traditions that have lasted for thousands of years.

Jennifer Newman, in the heart of a new set of artist studios in Wilcote near Witney creates mixed media maps, mapping the journeys of both her own life and those of her ancestors. Newman was born in Cape Town because her great grandfather, Frederick William Page, travelling in the late 1800’s from England with the British Cavalry en route to India, fell in love with Cape Town and never went any further. He moved to Robben Island, the island in Cape Bay notorious for being the place in which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during the apartheid years, and which even then had a history as a leper colony and a mental asylum. He took up the post of store keeper and her grandfather was born there in 1909. Jennifer is fascinated by this past and has used her art to ‘map’ journeys, both her own and other people’s, including Nelson Mandela, recording their geography and exploring, for example the beauty and dramatic shape of Africa, the edges of the land and the endangered elephants and rhinos living on that edge.

With a background in ceramics and sculpture, her understanding of clay has influenced her use of surface & texture, created with natural earth pigments, minerals, oil paints and patinated silver leaf, the resin element creating a contrast between dynamic earth & water. Some of her art pieces now hang aboard superyachts and continue to make journeys of their own!

An exhibition of Caroline’s canvases will be on show in Middleton Cheney’s Heseltine Gallery in April, and in her studio, Hamptons in Banbury and in Burford At Gallery for Oxfordshire Artweeks during May.


- Esther Lafferty


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