… and THIS is why I love Artweeks!

Amidst a sea rolling with giant waves it’s easy to become disorientated, and faced with the Oxfordshire Artweeks guide it’s similarly tricky to orientate yourself. You’re desperate to dive in the enticing waters, but you’re not sure what kind of an experience you’re going to encounter, as the offer is simply overwhelming.

How to find the needles in the haystacks? Separate the wheat from the chaff? Find those diamonds in the rough? Sometimes I think you’ve just got to dive in and hope for the best.

I hadn’t been to Charlbury until last week. What a charming place it is. Bigger than I’d anticipated; and, that Friday, full to the rafters of Artweeks activities and guide grasping gad-abouts, hubby, off-spring and I included. In and around Charlbury we saw some good art, some ‘fun’ art, some inoffensive living-room ‘art’, some garden art… and at venue 161 we saw some stunning art.

Venue 161 offered everything one really wants in an Artweeks venue. A ‘Through the Keyhole’ style insight into who lives in a house like this. Turns out two artists who’ve recently relocated back to the Cotswolds from the Isle of Wight do. They were both exhibiting in different parts of their house, and exhibiting in the glass house in their back garden, which was once home to a hot tub, was the nephew of one of the artists. The artists’ work was unrelated, the welcome was warm, the exchange was fun, and the art was interesting… In a really good way. Practicing artists, at different stages in their developing careers, working through their concepts, and happy to chat to curious visitors about their processes and inspiration. The artists I’m referring to were George Taylor, Janice Thwaites, and Tim Collard – click through to their websites, and return to check their work out as part of the Oxfordshire Artweeks Christmas exhibition in November (there’ll be more info on the Artweeks website in due course), or get in touch with George Taylor through his website as he offers private studio visits by prior arrangement.

Anyway, the work… it was all good, and all interesting, but George Taylor’s was exceptional (see the below images). You know that slap on the forehead between the eyes sensation? That shock encounter of something really quite special that takes you by surprise because you weren’t actively looking for it? That. I sneaked up on George, he was sat at his computer with his back to the exhibition space. This gave me time to roam, inspect and admire his work without that feeling of being ‘watched by the artist’, which is sometimes a bit uncomfortable, particularly if the work’s rubbish and you spend your time circulating trying to think of positive feedback that doesn’t leave you feeling like a liar. Anyway, as I circulated in his direction I found myself moved to exclaim just how much I was enjoying his work. The layers, the textures, the composition, the application of paint and pastels, the scrapes, the scratches, the scalpel cutting away and revealing unexpected colour combinations – bloody brilliant! All works imbued with a very specific sense of place. Waves and washes of atmosphere, abstracted landscapes and seascapes all with a very real sense of history and time. Many of them watery and Isle of Wight-esque, Taylor’s work is sensational, in the literal sense of the word. These sculptural, almost architectural, paintings take the viewer on a journey, they’re mesmeric, captivating. This is highly idiosyncratic, great painting. It’s the kind of work that you want to invest in, and that you want to invest time in. I can imagine discovering new aspects of it as it grows older with you – like an adventure that you and the painting would embark upon together. I could go on, I could definitely invest, and may very well do just that come November, and THIS is why I love Artweeks!

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Whilst chatting with George a mutual connection came up in conversation, Claire Reika Wright. We both remarked on how much we both enjoy the opportunity of revisiting artists’ work through Artweeks. Reika Wright regularly exhibits as part of Artweeks, and her work has come a long way in the time that I’ve ‘known’ it. When our paths first crossed three or four years ago Reika Wright was setting out on an experimental journey to take viewers on an audio visual journey using new media stepping inside paintings. Several years ago the work seemed a little clumsy, it was only in its infancy as a concept and Reika Wright was having to learn an entirely new set of skills to realise her ideas. And this has been a journey that she’s taken her Artweeks audience on over the years, and now it’s reached a highly sophisticated stage, and again she has exhibited as part of Artweeks showing off this progress to a local audience (she exhibits nationally and internationally) – see a couple of images taken from her work below… and THIS is why I love Artweeks!

The Eternal Flame Inverted-_xl (2)

Shadows 60x40 Dibond (2)


Next up I’d like to mention a catch it whilst you can multi-venue analogue photography exhibition, Lo-Fi, which continues at O3 Gallery, and The Jam Factory until 25th May, and at the Old Fire Station until the 14th June. This cross venue exhibition sees the various venues seek out artists that utilise a Lo-Fi, or ‘low-fidelity’ process. That is, their photographic practices embrace low quality exposure and prioritise aesthetic effect over digital accuracy. And the venues have unearthed some really great photographers, many of whom were unknown to me… again, THIS is why I love Artweeks!

The Jam Factory show features work by photographers: Marc West, Catherine Lang, Kazem Hakim, Ashley Good, Mirren Kessling, John Hamand, Anna Bruce and Youssef Sida. All of the work in this exhibition in the Boiler Room at the back of The Jam Factory is of a very high standard, almost entirely black and white, some collaged pieces, all possessing a sense of voyeurism, and perhaps a touch of 1970s espionage at times. It’s an excellent exhibition. However, the stand-out artist for me is Youssef Sida. Sida’s website doesn’t do the work exhibited as part of this exhibition any justice, so you’ll just have to hot-foot it over to The Jam Factory before Sunday night to see it for yourselves and make your own minds up!

The work shown below is by exhibiting photographer and curator of this show, Marc West.

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Finally, I’d just like to add, that people may think they know what they’re getting when they think about Oxfordshire Artweeks, the country’s biggest and oldest open studio event, but that’s impossible. New artists sign up to participate in Oxfordshire Artweeks each year, others dip out, and others take their work in another direction… and THIS is why I love Artweeks!