Art Insights

Following the sisters are doin’ it for themselves theme of my last post about Independent Oxford, I’m adopting a more serious tone for this post, as it’s serious stuff that I too feel passionately about – access for all, on every level, to contemporary art, that is.

It’s always struck me as a real shame that as we get older so many of us we amass inhibitions that we allow to colour our experience of contemporary art. Though this is understandable, as we’ve been taught to label and compartmentalise our encounters in order to make sense of them. We grapple to make sense of that which doesn’t label itself by imprinting our own experiences and thoughts on it. It’s always such a pleasure observing children in front of contemporary art, not yet having developed inhibitions, with no desire to compartmentalise, and little life experience they simply open their senses to a new experience and allow contemporary art to speak to them. Importantly, this unshackled approach, more often than not, enables a greater level of enjoyment and understanding of contemporary art.

So, as adults, how do we shake off these traits that we’ve subconsciously acquired, open our senses up and enjoy contemporary art to the same extent that children do? Well, the Oxfordshire based artist, critic and curator Clare Carswell has set up Art Insights to help people deepen their understanding of and approach to contemporary art, thus enabling this. Clare commented;

“I hope that the Art Insights talks will interest dedicated followers of modern art and also encourage some to look at art that they may find challenging, to step outside their art viewing ‘comfort zone’ and to consider why contemporary artists make what they do and why galleries and museums validate it by exhibiting it. The talks will explore some of the ideas preoccupying contemporary artists and help to make the experience of the art of today more accessible and enjoyable for the viewer.”

Clare produced a series of talks exploring the work of contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in response to his recent exhibition at Blenheim Palace.

The talks proved to be tremendously successful and very well received, as was the exhibition, the first major contemporary art exhibition of many that Blenheim have decided to mount, and just as the memory of the crabs live on so does the desire to better understand what was seen in the stately home. As such, Clare will be giving that talk once again at The Oxfordshire Museum  this Saturday 28 March.

Clare explains the impetus behind Art Insights;
“I started Art Insights because I realized that there was a keen audience in the region for talks on earlier periods of art such as Impressionism or the Renaissance, but that no-one was talking on contemporary art, tackling head on why it often seems harder to look at, or to enjoy, than art of the past. I am hoping to reach people who may feel baffled or irritated by contemporary art but who may feel inclined to look at it more seriously if given insights into the thinking and intention of contemporary artists and where their ideas come from.”

Clare endeavours to create a relaxed, comfortable style for her illustrated talks, which are often hosted by people in their homes providing the opportunity to discuss contemporary art in a small group over homely refreshments.

Passionate about sharing her passion and keen to reach as large an audience as possible in the country, whether the venue be in an art venue or in someone’s home, she remarked,
“It would be super to build a network of hosts in villages and towns who hold the events in their homes and so get the whole county talking about contemporary art!”

The illustrated talks are intended to enhance the viewing and enjoyment of contemporary art of all forms including conceptual, performance, video and installation art. The talks offer the insights of an experienced artist into the work of contemporary artists, the concepts that preoccupy them and the decisions that they make when producing their art. Clare examines the work of living artists and their voices at the same time contextualising their oeuvre by making reference to the art and ideas of earlier periods that underpin contemporary art making.

Art Insights talks relate to current and/or forthcoming exhibitions in galleries and museums in the region. Clare arranges trips to visit the exhibitions for further discussions. Her sessions last two hours and include a break for refreshments. Future talks are planned on Marlene Dumas and Sir Terry Frost. Contact Clare for more details or to host an event – – 


For more information about Clare and her own practice visit – she’s very talented and very nice!