Preview: Oxfordshire Artweeks, Week 1 (Oxford City)

Oxfordshire Artweeks was envisaged as a way to move art from the formal settings of galleries into ‘open studios’, appealing to a wider demographic and creating a relaxed environment for all. As well as being able to attend exhibitions for free, the public have the opportunity to meet the artists featured, to take part in workshops, and to attend tours, talks and special events. The festival is split into three weeks, each of which covers a particular area of the county. The first of the three, based in Oxford, runs from Saturday May 4th to Sunday May 12th. With such an abundance of art to view (from paintings, ceramics and textiles to furniture and jewellery), it is difficult to know where to start in terms of recommendations, other than to suggest consulting the extensive artist listings on the official Artweeks website. The website also gives possible ‘artist trails’ that will aid visitors in planning their days by helping them to find an efficient, easily navigable route.

'A Day Between' ⓒ Paul Bennett for Claremont Modern Art
‘A Day Between’ ⓒ Paul Bennett for Claremont Modern Art

There are many taster exhibitions being held throughout, and before, the festival. The Jam Factory on Park End Street will be featuring works by a selection of Artweeks artists from Jericho, in a collection titled ‘Home is where the Art is!’ during April (10am-11pm each day until Monday April 29th), which will then be followed by an artists’ open exhibition throughout May. Taster exhibitions featuring works of local artists will be held elsewhere at The Riverly Club in Abingdon (4th-19th May, 12-6pm), Ardington School of Crafts (9th-19th May, 10.30am-6pm, excluding Mondays and Tuesdays) and at The Gallery at Chipping Norton Theatre (4th-16th May, 10am-6pm, or 10am-2pm on Sundays). Workshops will be held during the week in and around the city, including a daylong silkscreen-printing workshop at Kieran Stiles Art Studio, and weekend workshops for puppet-making and digital photography in Headington and Banbury respectively, details of which can be found on the Artweeks website.

The Jacqueline du Pré Music Building is also serving as a venue for the festival, hosting an exhibition of works by Anthony Garratt, Eelco Maan, Juliana Do, and Paul Bennett from 7th – 27th May. From the ‘lyrical abstraction’ of Maan’s works to Bennett’s “perfect brooding landscapes” as described by The Times, curator and gallery owner Anthony Broad said that “We are thrilled to be presenting our first exhibition in Oxford, combining an exciting mix of works from four internationally acclaimed European artists encompassing landscape, abstraction, and the human condition.”

'Where Are You II' ⓒ Juliana Do for Claremont Modern Art
‘Where Are You II’ ⓒ Juliana Do for Claremont Modern Art

For those interested in learning more about art’s creation, history, or critical reception, there are several tours and talks being held across the week. Professor Francis O’ Gorman will speak about John Ruskin’s time in Oxford at St. Barnabas Church (free, in Jericho on Tuesday 7th May, at 8pm), and BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz will be featured in conversation with Jim White at the Divinity School Bodleian Library (on Saturday 11th May; tickets £7.50/£5.50 concs., at 7pm). Sculptor Sioban Coppinger and textile artist Amanda Hislop will both be giving free talks at the Vale & Downland Museum in Wantage (on Tuesday 7th May and Thursday 9th May respectively, both at 2pm). It is recommended that places be reserved in advance for the latter two talks. Three art tours will be taking place during the festival; William Morris & Victorian Oxford Tour (Friday 10th May), a Stained Glass Tour (Saturday 11th May), and a ‘Gargoyles and Grotesques’ Tour (Sunday 12th May). All tours will depart from Oxford Visitor Centre at 1.45pm, cover between one and two miles, and last approximately two hours.

'Infinity' ⓒ Eelco Maan for Claremont Modern Art
‘Infinity’ ⓒ Eelco Maan for Claremont Modern Art

A number of events have been designed with children and families in mind. The Summertown Street Parade (Saturday 4th May, 10am-midday) and Headington Street Festival (10.30am-12.30pm) both offer live music and activities, with the former hosting a ‘Mini Beast’ fancy dress competition and the latter featuring circus performances and a craft market. There will also be a concert at All Saints Church in Headington at 7.30pm on Saturday 4th May, featuring live dance, drawing and music. In order to encourage festivalgoers to explore as many venues as possible across the county, Artweeks have joined up in promoting the event with shoe retailers ECCO. The person who walk the furthest over the course of the festival will receive a £50 voucher for both Artweeks and for ECCO. Application forms and a free pedometer can be claimed at ECCO on New Inn Hall Street, Oxford.

St Moman's Church ⓒ Anthony Garratt for Claremont Modern Art
‘St Moman’s Church’ ⓒ Anthony Garratt for Claremont Modern Art

Artweeks is the oldest and biggest visual arts event in the county, and the scale and quantity of exhibitions that the festival continues to offer is impressive in itself. When considering the high quality of works on show, the festival’s achievement is all the more remarkable. Artweeks’ success is reflected in its longevity (2013 marks its 31st anniversary) and this year’s festival promises to be an unmissable occasion for art enthusiasts and newcomers alike. All are highly recommended to make the most of the festival as a chance to discover the works of local artists.

J. Wadsworth

Oxfordshire Artweeks runs from Saturday May 4th to Monday May 27th. The Oxford City section of the festival runs from Saturday May 4th to Sunday May 12th. Please visit the Artweeks website for further information on all of the events mentioned here, as well as a full list of exhibitions and artists featured.

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