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Review of Oxford Art Society exhibition

Aug-Sept 2021

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jane strother cairngorm approach from the green field

As the city is promised a week of sunshine and basks in the end of the summer, a new art exhibition reflects exactly this sparkle and joy as leading artists from across Oxfordshire showcase their work in the Oxford Art Society’s latest exhibition in the beautiful airy setting of the Cloisters Gallery of Oxford’s St John the Evangelist (SJE).

Opened by internationally renowned artist and Oxford academic Dr Samson Kambalu (whose current exhibition in Modern Art Oxford includes the model for his installation which will occupy Trafalgar Square’s Fourth plinth from Sept 2022), visitors to this stunningly colourful show can enjoy a wide breadth of styles and themes that carries visitors from hope to harbours, music to manor houses in a graceful oil painting of Waddesdon by Paul Minter.

As we move forward from the darkest days of the pandemic, its legacy hangs lightly on these walls in the fun yet moving Pandemic Papers by Claire Christie Sadler and Seli Ndlovu by Laurence Norman, one of the international Portraits for NHS Heroes series, who looks at the viewer with a haunting directness from her NHS scrubs. Pause and ponder for a moment at Ruth Swain’s Hung Out to Dry – a washing line where masks dangle alongside smalls. (Ruth’s second painting in the show is a witty Self portrait with Lucian Freud, finalist in the Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painters’ prize.)

Elsewhere Jane Hope reminds us of winter days gathering outdoors in Up to six people outside, Catriona Hopton’s linocut of B in lockdown catches a striking stillness on a yoga mat, Mark Draisey’s self portrait Hair Neccessities raises a smile and Lola Tartakova’s Quarantine Walk in dashing pinks and yellows explores the streets of Malaysia showing how they become hubs for ecosystems to thrive in this quiet era.

With a cheery flavour overall, the exhibition also looks on simple times and happier days too with figs, cherries, oranges and tomatoes, sunflowers and sunlit buttercups, a dusky pink rose on a gilded wood and a linocut of stargazer lilies in a vehement pink. It’s a pleasure to stand and contemplate the gentleness of Field Bindweed and August Grass (Sophia Stewart Liberty) and the coastal Spume at my feet by Julia Engelhardt whilst the intriguing Outside In II in by Angie Hunt has a touch of magic in its brushstrokes.

This celebration of the natural world stretches from the smallest marvels - nature’s beads strung in a glass panel (Cyanobacteria by Wendy Newhofer) – to an extraordinary largescale depiction of a zebra in blue line by Myrica Jones. For the staycationer there’s the iconic view from White Horse Hill, the Oxford Skyline as counties from Dorset and Derbyshire make an appearance and the Cairngorns bloom in swathes of spring greens and purple. Sprinkled alongside, you’ll find plenty of dreams of shores beyond and trips abroad stretching from Portugal views in burnt sienna to the gold-green reflections in tranquil waters beneath a Japanese Zen Temple by Alexandra Buckle.

There’s sculpture too, scattered amongst the wall art: look out for the elegant Dark mare and Foal by Alison Berman and curls of stone by Barbara Oster all set in this wonderful hidden quadrangle off the Iffley Road.

The exhibition is open daily from 11am-6pm until 5th September.

Although we recommend a visit in real life, the pieces can also be viewed in an on-line catalogue at

www.oxfordartsociety.co.uk/open-exhibition-summer-2021



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