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Oxfordshire Artweeks 2020

'Waterways' Art Trail

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Tash Noel

The Oxfordshire Artweeks artist showcase art inspired by rivers and lakes today, and the focus of one artist has long been the changing banks of the Seacourt stream which runs from Botley to Wytham, once home to an old fishing village. Pastel artist John Blandy https://www.artweeks.org/galleries/2020/john-blandy has been inspired by Wytham since 1974, using the bank of this river as his outdoor studio and the very first series of paintings that he exhibited in 1976 was called 'Following the Seacourt'. Back then, the banks of the stream were almost clear of trees. More than forty years on, he’s still following the Seacourt.

“Painting the same scene from the same spot over the years has a certain logic,” explains Blandy. “It enables me to see through the work how the place changes from day to day, year on year. When I started painting the stream in the 1970s, the water was bordered by a wire-fenced cattle pasture, and framed by poplars, willows and elms in the distance; today it is overwhelmed by trees (mostly willows) a hive of activity for the wildlife. Also, the process of painting the same thing over and over again allows the shapes of elements within the frame to crystallize more clearly.”

Blandy’s many representations have recorded the changing local landscape and charted the decades passed – now tall trees compete to reach the light, their leaves trailing the water.

Working outside, Blandy’s marks are time-specific, an immediate representation of what he sees. The finished works are in a semi-abstract style that captures the moment mid-movement, and looking at each you are infused with the mood of that moment as if you actually standing in the landscape, the series of work providing a collection of moments, and a passing of time.

The pictures capturing the drama of movement caused by light and wind throughout the seasons; the stream in flood, the cows come to the waterside to drink, captured in a swift deft mark on the paper. The weeping willows too are depicted crisp and cold in winter or glowing with the yellows and greens of spring, burnished with autumnal colours. And with dozens of other artists offering their own unique interpreatations of the Thames and waterways near and far, today’s art trail is a great way to have a riverside stroll while self-isolated.

For more, visit: https://www.artweeks.org/festival/theme/rivers-and-lakes

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