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Oxfordshire Artweeks 2020

‘The Beauty of Small Things’ Art Trail

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Tash Noel

As the Oxfordshire Artweeks virtual festival looks at the beauty of small things in their daily art trail, we uncover an artist who takes collections of small objects and turns them into wall art with wow factor. Using a rainbow of coloured pencils, Robert Strange https://www.artweeks.org/galleries/2020/robert-strange-oas-woa impressively transfer these three-dimensional objects onto paper, a process which take several weeks. Each illustrates how the ephemera other people throw away can equally be described as art: each is large, fresh and cheerful pictures series of objects that have been discarded or out-served their purpose including old pencils, beach toys, golf tees, gun cartridges and sets of soft toys.

As a child Robert Strange filled his pockets and drawers with odd bits and pieces documenting his finds in scrapbooks and illustrated diaries: his many collections stored in dozens of boxes and glass jars now line the walls of his immaculate Harwell studio and serve as a basis for this Squashed series.

One drawing shows old toy cars, evocative and battered matchbox cars, many of which have a real family history. ‘I’ve picked up a few intriguing ones from junk shops and other places, he explains, ‘ but mostly the toy cars were mine as a child and then my children played with them and now they come out for my grandchildren. They’ve been much loved for a very long time.’

There’s always something to hand to inspire his next work, and each choice brings forth an accompanying story. ‘Once squashed into their boxes,’ explains Robert, ‘every collection seems to take on a whole new lease of life, as if they have their own tale to tell.’ His sense of fun is on show in a collection of pencil sharpenings, curled and colourful, that form interesting shapes and swirls, and which he has used to create small varnished and boxed ‘sharpening flies’ – like miniature butterflies collected for perpetuity. ‘I pretend they’re a whole new species,’ he laughs ,’and for children, I imagine a life-story: how the pencil tip is like a colourful egg, a small piece of pencil is like the caterpillar, and them from a pile of shavings stuck together, like a chrysalis, these beautiful art-butterflies emerge!’ Currently Robert is working on a selection of squashed beer bottle tops, perhaps a record of days in self-isolation.

Robert also draws rusty objects, the sorts of things you’d find in an old shed or workshop – decaying old tools, rusted hardware and worn garage ephemera that have served a lifetime. The rusty surfaces are richly coloured and textured which makes them a real challenge to draw and yet the realism Robert achieves in a series of one lock, two nuts and bolts, three hinges and so on is remarkable.

For more, visit: https://www.artweeks.org/festival/theme/small-beautiful

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