Enjoy a feast of art in and around Banbury this month as Oxfordshire Artweeks returns
Much-loved local scenes, exotic adventures, voyages of the imagination - this year's Artweeks has it all, in person and online
Oxfordshire Artweeks is now under way – and there’s plenty for art lovers to savour in and around Banbury.
The county’s open studio and pop-up exhibition event, bursting with art and quality craftsmanship, opened on May 1 and runs until May 23.
Last year the pandemic drove their festival online. But it was such a success that this year visitors can choose whether to see any of the 250 Covid-secure venues in person or enjoy hundreds of virtual studios and exhibitions with video tours and art trails.
The festival includes art from painting and photography to ceramics and sculpture. There’s glass art, textiles, fashion and furniture too.
Visitors to both venues and virtual studios will be able to hear artists talking about their inspiration, explaining their materials and, often, demonstrating their methods.
On Bath Road, there’s a chance to explore the art of Hook Norton artist Rachel Cronin, the winner of the 2021 Artweeks Mary Moser Award.
Rachel said: “When I was small, I always wanted to be an artist, and in every picture of me as a child, I am holding a paintbrush.
“I’ve always been drawn to landscapes, seeking out forms, patterns and colours. It’s the countryside that inspires me most and I love the rolling land of north Oxfordshire, woods and trees, and lesser-known spots. I love picking out the man-made elements like gateposts and fences and evidence of ancient ways of life.
“Although I always have a sketchbook as a starting point for each painting, it’s purely a starting point. I hope to offer the viewer an experience rather than a literal representation of a scene or vista, and I like my paintings to be a little non-conformist, possibly even a bit jarring or uncomfortable: that adds a depth and an intrigue.”
Rachel’s paintings can be seen alongside the work of Jane Griffiths, who makes bold sterling silver jewellery incorporating sea-glass, found objects and semi-precious stones.
Also in Banbury, although from May 17, The Mill throws open its doors with a wide selection of art by Banbury Artists’ Co-operative from Church Lane Gallery.
Louise Regan’s intricate detailed scenes, predominantly in ink and watercolour, range from the West Country to the Adriatic coast, all tied together by a focus on escapism.
She said: “These pieces were produced in 2020 and enabled me to escape a constricted and worrying world through my art - reminding me of places I had visited or yet to visit - but anywhere else other than the here and now.”
Louise was named Banbury Artist of the Year last year for her work The Grand Duchy of Fenwick. This is the first time it will be exhibited for real for the public to visit.
Other artists include Emma Wilkinson, a cartoonist in addition to her more painterly pursuits who has a love of bold colour and uses line to express dynamic movement, playfulness and uplifting emotion.
Alongside Emma, Karen Baum paints with wool, silk and cotton fibres. Working from still life, sketch book designs and photographs, she uses a colourful palette of wools, some dyed naturally using avocados, red and white onion skins and some commercially dyed merino wools, silks and cotton threads.
Karen’s work is inspired by the changing colours, textures and movement of the seasons, from the cascading autumn leaves of crimson, copper and gold to the delicate stirring of pink and white spring blossoms, from fleeting clouds and stormy seas to the quiet still of hazy summer meadows.
At The Forge in Culworth, Lizzie Coulter will be exhibiting paintings and prints of magical places including aspects of Italy, Spain and France.
She has a deep connection to the landscape, so expect impressions of water: streams, rivers, lakes, dew ponds or the sea.
There are also scenes of villages and gardens, trees in parklands and herbaceous borders, looking at how light and shadow transform the landscape and buildings in it, collecting leaves or drawing the hedgerows that border the rural world.
This close personal observation results in colourful paintings, etchings and lino cut prints.
From a delicately delineated watercolour of a standing stone in Oxfordshire to a bold impasto acrylic of the cliffs of Cornwall, Lizzie presents an atmosphere and a perspective all her own.
Lizzie said: “All my life I have been entranced by the local landscape; as a non-swimmer, attracted by all forms of water, and fascinated by the effects of light, tone and texture on mainly the natural world.
“I love jewel-like colours and experimenting to find the end result that I can just perceive in my mind’s eye, aiming to achieve a sense of place in my work. It’s great when it works out!”
Lizzie is also showing jewellery made from re-purposed silver, antique, vintage and contemporary beads and semi-precious stones.
Exhibiting alongside Lizzie is sculptor Liz Dixon, who is showing a varied mix of richly textured sculpture and mixed media canvases incorporating recycled textiles.
These are inspired mainly by the natural world, especially the coast, but also including animal forms.
In nearby Great Bourton is the studio of a Jenny Eadon, who is delighted to be exhibiting having spent three months last year in the intensive care unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford with Covid-19.
Alongside landscapes, her work includes vivid abstract paintings, many an impression or memory of specific places she has visited.
Jenny said: “I try to order the jumbled mosaic of recollections by putting down the defining connotations of a place and expressing the particular colours, shapes, mood and sensations experienced there.”
Other abstract work comes from an inner landscape of visual images invoked by music and poetry as she seeks to recreate an equivalent on the canvas.
And in Sibford, a new Museum of Modern Art is opening its doors for the first time featuring work by seven talented artists, including sculpture by Alison Bell and intriguing photography by Jane Stillwell.
As government regulations concerning coronavirus can change rapidly, the organisers recommend that visitors check with venues before travelling.
Visit www.artweeks.org for more information about this year’s festival and the artists involved across Oxfordshire.