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Culture
Cathryn Jeff

A celebration of international art in Oxford

Esther Lafferty, Festival Director of Oxfordshire Artweeks, talks to some local artists who are proud to join the party
Alexandra Buckle

"From stylish monochrome vases and sculptural pieces to funky figures and colourful flowers that look as if they have been picked fresh from the garden of Alice in Wonderland"

For three days this month (26th-28th February) Oxford Town Hall becomes a hive of art activity, as thousands of pieces by more than 150 artists are brought together in this classic Victorian building, with something to appeal to all tastes and budgets, and art enthusiasts flock like bees to a honey pot

 

Dutch co-organiser Joelle Dinnage, from the Global Art Agency, has chosen artists with a variety of styles and types of art, and under one roof you can see the creative output of both early-career artists and established ones, international artists lined up alongside our homegrown talent.

Meet Cathryn Jeff, for example, who paints land and seascapes with a distinctive free, non-fussy style. Her pictures are inspired by the nature that surrounds us, and she gathers inspiration when out walking with her black Labrador in local beauty spots around North Leigh near Witney where she lives, and towards the Cotswolds.

She is inspired by the beautiful patchwork nature of the fields and tries to capture and replicate the sense of distance and perspective in her paintings. She also is fascinated by silver birches which are her favourite trees to paint, the white bark against the darker surroundings creating real contrast and interest.

Siobhan Cooney

 

Although acrylic is Cathryn’s main medium, she also enjoys experimenting with watercolours and the ‘happy accidents’ you get from watercolours that you don’t get with other paints. Cathryn also loves the coast, and as Oxfordshire is as far away from the sea as you can get in this country, she takes pleasure in painting the sea so she can continue to enjoy coastal views of The Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, Devon and Wales at home.

Back in her studio, when starting an acrylic or oil painting, Cathryn works mainly from memory and photographs to transform a view into a piece of art. She first applies sand and plaster, letting them dry before applying layers of paint, often drybrushing on the paint to still reveal the colours underneath, creating unique contours and texture. Other techniques used are pallette knife, sponging and splashing. This creation of texture and depth allows Cathryn’s paintings to be admired from both up close and afar. Cathryn says she is obsessed with clouds and absolutely loves painting them, especially dramatic storm clouds and is often thankful to our ‘typical English weather’ for the drama and contrast it offers.

Nearby, Rupert Aker is also inspired by the local landscape and is showing his ‘painting perambulation’ through the west Oxfordshire Windrush valley, alongside other work.

Alexandra Buckle, who lives and works in Bicester, is inspired by countryside walks in nearby Stoke Wood, managed by the Woodland Trust, and is excited by light, shadow and colour. She enjoys capturing her favourite scenery as hand-printed ‘reduction’ linocuts, a careful process in which each of the colours is printed from the same block, so one colour is printed first and then the artist removes more material from the block, and consecutive colours are print on top of the previous ones, with striking effect.

Artist Yvonne Jones enjoys creating a variety of artwork in different media, including human portraits in pencil, animal portraits in pencil and watercolour and landscapes and botanical art in various media, taking her inspiration from her love of gardening, nature and wildlife, as well as travels abroad. For the Oxford Art Fair, however, she is planning new Oxford-themed artwork.

Look out for contemporary ceramicist Daiva Kojelyte-Marrow, who is also inspired by nature and is showing dramatic pieces at this month’s art fair. Originally from Lithuania, and with several international commendations under her belt, Daiva moved to North Oxford last year and is looking forward to showing her work to the local population for the first time, ahead of May’s Artweeks event. From stylish monochrome vases and sculptural pieces to funky figures and colourful flowers that look as if they have been picked fresh from the garden of Alice in Wonderland, there’s a great variety in the delicate joyful pieces she produces.

‘Nature is my greatest, deepest and ever-changing source of inspiration,’ she remarks. ‘I walk and cycle almost daily across the meadows to feel the shifting seasons. There is such a fragility in spring flowers, yet they have a strength that breaks through the dead of winter. This fascinates me.’

Photographer Gareth Bartlett, meanwhile, experiments with colour, shape and angles to create interesting and sometimes quite spectacular images. He took his first photograph aged 7 on Christmas Day 1980 and has been hooked ever since. Having originally studied traditional photography methods, he has since adapted to using digital techniques to create colourful and unusual images.

Or track down Siobhan Cooney, a screen print artist from Cuddesdon, who is showing the latest developments in her work. ‘I've spent much of the past year locked away in the studio experimenting with colour and light,’ she explains. ‘This has led me to create a bold body of work inspired by stained glass and butterflies, using a range of techniques including screen printing, airbrushing and resin coating.’ And for something rather different, visitor Victor Buehring’s display of Down The M4: 25 Pockets of Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol, Swindon, Reading and London, a social assemblage project exploring the major cities along the M4 corridor. The assemblages are randomly and collaboratively generated through gifts and referrals. Participants give away to the montage, a possession that is either carried on their person or that is at hand nearby and then write on the picture frame directions for the next location and person, or "pocket" to be visited in their particular city. Items received from participants are attached to the montage. Positioning of the assembled objects correlates to the locations at which these were obtained so that there is a contextual significance in their placement. In this way Victor tries to achieve a visualisation of each of the cities along the M4 an interacting, social entity.

The Oxford International Art Fair takes place from 26th-28th February. Get directions and see the artist listings at oxfordinternationalartfair.com

 

- Esther Lafferty

 

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