Art in unexpected places
In Tackley the photography of Benedict Ramos is set to amaze
Art is alive in nooks and crannies across the county and what better way than to explore Oxfordshire’s creative talent than in situ? You’ll be surprised what’s hidden away!
For a weekend this November many artists and designer-makers will be inviting the public in as part of the Oxfordshire Artweeks Christmas Weekend – and where better to hunt for a few unique Christmas gifts?
Here’s some suggestions about where to head first...
Nestled next to a working sawmill in North Leigh near Witney you’ll find Graham Rice’s artist studio like a gingerbread house hidden among the woods of North Leigh, reached from the whimsically named Cuckoo Lane.
And here you’ll find the rich colours of autumn encapsulated in enamel with the silhouettes of elusive deer amongst falling leaves. His partner, Sheila Raven, crafts foxes and hares that scamper below as delicate silver jewellery all inspired by the local woods and the legends of Wychwood, a royal forest in medieval times thought to be home to hobgoblins and jack o’ lanterns (also known as Willo the Wisp) who would put on the disguise of a beautiful young girl or crock of gold to lead unsuspecting travellers floundering into the undergrowth.
‘I’m inspired by the Arthur Rackham illustrations of my childhood,’ explains Graham ‘which seem to come alive when I’m walking the dog on North Leigh Common and up through the woods to Combe. I love the trees, the secrets of the forest and the richness of the greens and other colours. And Oxfordshire seems to me to be rather a fairy-tale county with the richness of its flora and fauna, the River Thames cutting through it, and then there’s Blenheim just a few miles from here, a palace fit for any princess.’
For the onset of winter, Graham has also created a series of paintings depicting contemporary Oxfordshire childhood play in a winter wonderland, as muffler clad children skip through snowflakes and Narnia-styled white woods.
Equally magical are the paintings by Sally Wyatt which you can discover in her country bed and breakfast, Star Cottage, in a tranquil garden in Fulbrook near Burford. In this quirky yet elegant retreat, contemporary furnishings, gorgeous linens, crafted pieces and vintage furniture give a hint of Sally’s background in interior design while her new career direction is as an artist, and ethereal paintings depict the power, the fragility and the beauty of nature; ominous clouds, disturbed water, physical geography and wild flora in muted colours and nuanced tones with dancing light and energy.
One of Sally’s most recent works Rest My Eyes in Shades of Green was highly commended by the judges of the inaugural Oxford Art Prize. Sally’s work can also be seen at the accomplished Burford Art Gallery, an oasis of art at the Burford Garden Centre who are hosting a Meet the Artists event over the Oxfordshire Artweeks Christmas Weekend. There you’ll also find sculpture including metal wall art by Chris Townsend who works from a loft gallery in a beautiful 16th century farm courtyard in Ascott-under-Wychwood, another art space that will open showing both Chris’s studio space and the work of other local artists.
In the National Trust village of Coleshill near Faringdon, the ‘Stable Yard artists’ will be showing pottery, printmaking and textiles in several studio spaces in a rustic Cotswold Stone quadrangle with an old clock tower, hidden down a track beyond an old estate wall. The overgrown tranquillity belies a wealth of war-time interest on this estate – Coleshill was the isolated military headquarters for a secret resistance network of highly trained volunteers who prepared to be Britain’s last ditch line of defence during World War Two and operated in a network of cells from hidden underground bases around the UK, much of the history is still largely secret and being uncovered today.
At the north pole of the county, in the National Herb Garden at Warminster near Banbury, you’ll find a range of pictures, cards and gift ideas by several artists at the entrance to six specially-designed herb gardens and nature trails and with breath-taking views over three counties, offering the chance to see a variety of wildlife in its natural habitat.
And just a couple of miles away, hidden in the rolling hills of the Oxfordshire/ Northamptonshire borders, Cool Contours in Chipping Warden is a quiet oasis of talent, an arts and crafts centre which offers a wide range of arts and crafts courses including rural crafts such as trug-making and even hedgelaying alongside painting and photography and the exhibitions held in this inspirational setting are well worth a trip into the deepest Oxfordshire countryside.
In Tackley near Kidlington the photography of Benedict Ramos is set to amaze – he is drawn to the beauty of the natural world, and his fascination and love of the natural form is captured through his digital photography, a close observation that is captured in one shot, and isn’t elaborately manipulated, and holds the viewer’s gaze with an unexpected intensity as if it were an Old Master. These are then printed using archival pigment inks and cotton rag, or more traditional photographic baryta papers, the choice of paper transforming the feel of a print. He delights in ‘revealing beauty’ – you can, as the poet William Blake is so widely quoted as saying, ‘[To] see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower’.
Down the road, tucked in a small wooden shed at the back of an old house in Yarnton, its outbuildings now converted into a pottery, you’ll find funky contemporary porcelain tableware at the cutting edge of modern design, each a crisp winter white that look as clean and delicate as falling snow, whilst for colour and a magnificent gingerbread house of stained glass that looks too good to eat, visit Holton glass artist Jackie Birchall whose glass flowers for the garden and Christmas ornaments for the tree, produced in a wooden studio nearby, are rich in colour and shimmering with festive cheer.
These Artweeks Christmas venues can be found at:
Graham Rice: The Cuckoo’s Nest, Cuckoo Lane, North Leigh nr Witney OX29 6PW
Sally Wyatt: Star Cottage B&B, Meadow Lane, Fulbrook nr Burford OX18 4BW
Chris Townsend: The Loft Gallery, Crown Farm, Ascottunder- Wychwood OX7 6AB
Stable Yard Artists: 60 Stable Yard, Coleshill nr Faringdon SN6 7PT
The National Herb Centre, Banbury Road, Warmington OX17 1DF
Cool Contours, Warden Hill nr Banbury OX17 1AJ
Benedict Ramos: The Old School House, 44 Medcroft Road, Tackley OX5 3AH
Kina Ceramics Design: 156 Cassington Rd, Yarnton nr Kidlington OX5 1QB
Jackie Birchall & Christine Bainbridge: 3 Barns Close, Holton OX33 1QB
For more, and those near you, visit artweeks.org