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The Magic of Oxfordshire Artweeks

Oxfordshire Artweeks runs from 2-25 May (2-10 north Oxfordshire; 9-17 Oxford city; 16-25 south Oxfordshire)

Across the county, explore art around pets and portraiture, people and places, boats and beaches, land and sky

It’s Oxfordshire Artweeks and with over 400 venues, how will you choose? Here are some ideas to get you started…

Myths and magic

For mythical creatures, in Oxfordshire, then surely the Dodo is the place to start – and despite the rumours of extinction, there are at least two making an appearance for Artweeks.

James Cochrane creates imaginative ornamental animal sculptures from papier mache and plaster (venue 256, Summertown).


Also, inspired by famous illustrations from literature such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Sophie Thompson (venue 47, Milton-under-Wychwood) interests and amuses with her metal sculptures of legendary animals from the Dodo and Gryphon to the Billy Goats Gruff and the Rhino immortalised by German painter and print-maker Albrecht Dürer: this rhino was given by an Indian sultan to King of Portugal in 1515 and was the first of its kind to arrive in Europe since the days of the Roman Empire but subsequently and unfortunately drowned on its way to see the Pope!

In Ewelme (venue 394), John Parrey’s foliate heads look as if they have stepped from the local English oak from which they have been carved, each green man an individual and each surely bestowed with a story of Sherwood Forest or another such tale to tell.

Ben Leighton (venue 234, Jericho) presents a modern view of mythical monsters, exploring the traditional genre of portraiture through the contemporary medium of digital painting, taking full advantage of its ability to manipulate and distort. His brushstrokes are an expressive device which belie the pixels beneath and produce fascinating yet unsettling hybrids ripe for new legends.

In Oxford Playhouse (venue 208), the magic of the theatre is captured by artist Michael Gabriel who with swift pencil on paper records the normally transient art-form of performance and gives mere memories from the auditorium a permanence, from The Northern Lights to Aladdin, and for a magic carpet to match, head to Summertown for hand-woven Kilim rugs by Leah Offer (venue 271).

Music and movement

In Toot Baldon (venue 319), Water Music is a studio exhibition combining prints and watercolours, exquisitely detailed handmade model yachts and programmed musical performances inspired by the artwork on show.

In reverse, Rod Craig is an artist and musician who enjoys painting from the soundscapes of live music and his work will be on show in The Real Wood Gallery in Woodstock (venue 101). As he paints with watercolour, ink and salt, the brushstrokes are projected onto a screen so the audience can see the interplay between the musicians and the painter.

Also inspired by music, Isabel knowland, a violinist and artistic director of the Oxford Concert Party, Europe's only Baroque and Tango Orchestra, is exhibiting contemporary prints and artist's books inspired by music and poetry in Charlbury (venue 83) down the road from silent music installations by Janice Thwaites to intrigue you (venue 88). This project began with the discovery of a silver band tuba buried at the back of an antique shop, and the intricate sculptural form of the pipes triggering a thought process about the importance of the aesthetic design of an instrument, the audible and the visual, and the colour of silence.

Dance too can be represented by marks, whether literally creating marks on canvas by dancing shoes or painting inspired by the movement of the human figure. You’ll see paintings in Banbury inspired by ballet (venue 14) or visit sculptor Rachel Ducker in Jericho (venue 230) for dynamic wire characters. Trained as a jeweller and well versed in life drawing and with an appreciation of the human form and the emotional dynamics of human nature, Rachel’s striking 3D figurative pieces, from little to life-size, are each caught in a moment of movement as if they’ve stepped from a fairytale.

And last but not least, for those who travel every day and pray to keep moving, artist Victor Buehring explores the M4 and the cities along it in a social assemblage project, looking at all the major cities along the M4 corridor, and most recently 25 Pockets of Oxford. His finished montages will be on show in Oxford’s Albion Beatnik bookstore (venue 213, Jericho).

Fashion and furnishings

Think fashion and jewellery and there’s plenty to see. Rosie Colvin crafts rings with rocks and found fossils, rich in history, and also combines the soft textures and striking colours of felt with the perfect hard reflective surface of polished silver (venue 40, Chipping Norton) while textile artist Lizzie Hurst creates hats and corsages and her ever-popular bird while the delicate stunning floral embroidery creations of Charlbury’s Sue Rangeley (venue 87) have graced both catwalks and the V&A.

Miesje Chafer, exhibiting in Cowley for Artweeks (venue 180), is drawn to textiles in all their various forms. She uses screen printing to transfer her bold and colourful designs onto fabric. Sometimes geometric, sometimes more organic, her designs are intended to bring a little inspiration to life. Not just content with using cottons and linens, Miesjie often combines her printed textiles with a range of other fabrics such as leather, wool, neoprene and silk to create art for the home that is tactile, functional and beautiful.

In Uffington (venue 354) textile and mixed media artist Trudi James creates stylish and colourful lamps, some of which are upcycled, in the beautiful setting of the Tom Brown’s School Museum while, in Chadlington, figurative artist Jill Colchester creates Original-Art lamps, as shown in the Ashmolean, with the human figure blacked onto simple paper shapes with unique effect.

And on the nearby Iffley Road, Josh Rose, owner of one of the newest galleries in Oxford, Love Your Plane (venue 167), has turned the idea of flat-pack furniture into an art form, printing artists’ work onto plywood creating hard-wearing parts that are easy to assemble and yet add original design flair to any room.

And if art and design and light and colour are integral to your home, Wolvercote’s glass artist Philip Dove creates stunning modern and classical designs for windows, doors and panels, all produced using traditional methods, while Summertown’s contemporary glass artist Vital Philips also opens his studio annually for Artweeks to show the striking circular sweeps of his glass art which has been commissioned for buildings all over the world.

Across the county, explore art around pets and portraiture, people and places, boats and beaches, land and sky. From intricately drawn insects to installations and ideas, be excited by something new in this month’s Artweeks.

Oxfordshire Artweeks runs from 2-25 May (2-10 North Oxfordshire; 9-17 Oxford city; 16-25 South Oxfordshire). Festival guides are available at local information points, or search the exhibitions online.

- Esther Lafferty


Top Image - James Cochrane

Bottom Image - Rachel Ducker


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