Get Prepared for Oxfordshire Artweeks
Drama caused by light, wind and flood...
Oxford and Oxfordshire burst into life this spring as nearly a thousand artists and designer-makers prepare for four hundred open studios events and exhibitions across the county for Oxfordshire Artweeks (2-25 May) in the longest-running and biggest event of its kind.
It’s an opportunity to discover the rich creative talent in every corner of the county and discover some unique and interesting pieces of art inspired by Oxford’s dreaming spires, the beauty of the Cotswolds, the upper reaches of the Thames, or the ancient Ridgeway.
Potters and painters, designers and textile artists, sculptors, wood-turners, silversmiths and furniture-makers are all opening their studios and hosting exhibitions across the county to showcase their work, their materials and processes.
From fashion to furniture, in collage, in mosaic, on fabric, on film and on canvas, you can see the tales of wonderful places and journeys travelled, their ideas and inspirations transformed into art you can carry home.
And where to start?
Here are some ideas to start you off for the first couple of weeks. It all begins in North Oxfordshire from 2-10 May with venues from across the Cotswolds and in the historic market towns of the Cherwell Valley.
You’ll find, for example, a wealth of sculpture in the heart of Bicester, in the beautiful studio and garden of The Old Vicarage by St Edburg’s Church (Venue 98),
or find brilliant contemporary design at Heyford House in Lower Heyford (venue 96): it’s the quintessential English country house rich with wisteria on old walls, green lawns and home-made cake. Oh and a variety of interesting art including Ordance Survey’s Oxford fictionalised as Christminster from Jude The Obscure, and Chatsworth as Pemberley for the Jane Austen. And for a colourful map of Oxfordshire today, or Oxford in quirky pen and ink, I recommend a visit to Eynsham’s Jane Tomlinson (venue 125).
Both the theatre and town hall in Chipping Norton (venues 38 & 39) will be bursting with high-quality art and craft as more than forty artists open their studios and show their art across this classic Cotswold town: there’s skilful paper engineering by Graham Lester, for example, and breath-taking artistic sculptural pieces by Andrew Harrison who combines the traditions of woodturning, and carving with a modern touch.
Head to Burford Affordable Art Gallery (venue 52) for eight foot tall lilies to adorn the garden or dynamic figures in two very different styles by sculptors Christopher Rothero and Rachel Ducker. Here too, enjoy local scenes by painter Rupert Akers who walks the local valleys and hills, gaining inspiration from woods, meadows and hedgerows, painting ‘en plein air’ to capture the light on the land and evoking a sense of calm: evening light and shadows; cow parsley on a wayside verge; mist and sunshine after a rain storm, a church spire providing a focal point in the landscape.
In the ballroom of nearby early-seventeenth century Asthall Manor (venue 54), where the Mitford sisters spent their childhood years and were debutantes and which is only occasionally open to the public, ceramicist Kate Searle Hopkins, is exhibiting as part of a large group of artists including jewellers and glass artist. In keeping with the room’s dancing past, Searle Hopkins creates amazing vintage shoes in the style of a Baroque French court. These graceful ornate curved pieces in light colours, playfully decorated with gold and bows on would have Marie-Antoinette reaching for the cheque-book!
And for contemporary ceramics in a very different style,
head over to Yarnton, a village known for its Early Bronze Age ceramic findings:
here Kina Gorska welcomes you to her beautiful studio (venue 131) where she creates funky porcelain monsters and many other unusual pieces.
Oxford itself explodes with art from 9-17 May and why not start by exploring Bartlemas Chapel where the city’s Mayday celebrations originated (venue 155). This 14th-century chapel was built as part of a leper hospital. Down a quiet lane just metres from the bustle of the vibrant Cowley Road, several artists pay homage to this history with colourful collage in textiles and mixed media, focusing on the flora of mayday celebrations and rural landscapes.
Head into town via a riverside studio overlooking Magdalen Deer Park, where the cello forms the basis of striking figurative sculpture (venue 159), and reflect on new perspectives of The Ashmolean Museum or the Museum of Natural History in West Oxford (venue 191) or revisit theatre shows as Oxford Playhouse artist-in-residence Michael Gabriel exhibits drawings made from the back of the auditorium during performances, from Shakespeare to pantomime (venue 208). Visit individual artists in their own environments too, for striking bright cityscapes by Henry Sells (venue 275 etchings capturing the wildlife on Port Meadow by Elizabeth Moriarty (venue 295) or see the changing banks of the old Seacourt Stream that runs from Botley to Wytham, once home to an old fishing village (venue 302) as artist John Blandy illustrates the trees that have grown, their leaves trailing in the water, combining an abstract style of painting with mood and movement in the water and the drama caused by light, wind and flood throughout the seasons.
For more information on all Oxfordshire Artweeks exhibitions visit artweeks.org - Oxfordshire Art at its best.
Top Image - Henry Sells
Middle Image - John Blandy
Bottom Image - Jane Tomlinson
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