Archives for category: exhibitions

artinard2 artinard3 artinard4What I love about sculpture is the way in changes the surroundings and itself is changed depending on where it is placed. Ardington, a village in the shadow of The Ridgeway in Oxfordshire, has been transformed over the last two weeks with about 70 sculptures positioned near its streams, lakes, beautiful houses and Millennium woods. My friend and I met for a walk to enjoy time together, to catch up and also to appreciate the art. Some were good and some indifferent, but it was always exciting to spot the next one on our treasure hunt of sculpture as we shared our news. My favourite was the tall tall woman with a rusty, crusty texture by Pam Foley. It reminded me of Giacometti’s thin figures or the way our shadows become elongated and heads pin-shaped in the setting sun. The glass lozenges by Jenny Pickford made me smile as the colour glowed with joy. Some sculptures were not to my taste but still created beautiful shapes, textures or reflections that they gave us pleasure. What a pleasant way to start the week – talking with a dear friend and enjoying the familiar countryside subtly changed with the addition of sculptures.

Sadly Art in Ardington ended yesterday, so we were just ahead of the removal men who were taking the sculptures away, but if you are quick, you may still catch a few!artinard1 artinard5 artinard6About this post: My 2014 resolution is to visit a creative place every month.
January – The Ashmolean: Malcolm Morley
February – Oxford School of Photography
March – The Ashmolean: Cézanne and the modern

April – The Jam Factory


jam factory2 jam factory3I could say that the fourth excursion was back to the Cézanne exhibition as I returned to enjoy his art with my three children where they became quite animated in their discussions. But that felt like cheating so this month I visited The Jam Factory in Oxford to take pot luck in what was being exhibited. There are so many layers of pleasure here from interesting art to quirky décor to the story behind the building as this was where Frank Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade was made until production moved away in 1967. It is now a café, a meeting place and an art venue. As I wandered around, a group of mums with young babies gathered for coffee looking very NCTish which sent me down my own nostalgic path. But on with the art…

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Wait ’til it settles by Sarah Craddock

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Wait ’til it settles by Sarah Craddock

There were three exhibitions being held and my favourite was ‘Inspired by the Canal’. It is an exhibition of children’s art, professional artists and art from the community using Oxford’s canal as their inspiration. Starting in Banbury, the canal to Oxford wanders through Wolvercote ending quietly at busy Hythe Bridge Street in Oxford and is a secret byway waiting to be explored. I enjoyed the children’s boats, the hilarious tea cosies, the excellent etchings and found the contemporary installation thought-provoking.

Sarah Craddock had bottled and ‘packaged’ canal water from different spots that had witnessed stories – a birth, a drowning, an attack, a draining. The labels on the water provide a tantalising hint to the history and stories that the canal could tell. If the containers were not in an art gallery they would look like rubbish but their situation makes you think deeper and harder about water and the canal. As the water in the containers settles the good rises to the top and yet the history and sediment is also there to be acknowledged. Allowing situations to settle helps you to see things clearer and to extract the good from a situation. Even our English language alludes to what water teaches, “Don’t muddy the waters”.

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Tea cosies inspired by canal boats

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Etchings by Caroline Maas

The Canal Exhibition is only on until the 27 April 2014 but there is always something interesting to see and do at The Jam Factory – ‘Anyone for scrabble?’jam factory4jam factory1

About this post: My 2014 resolution is to visit a creative place every month.
January – The Ashmolean: Malcolm Morley
February – Oxford School of Photography
March – The Ashmolean: Cézanne and the modern


cezanne2cezanne“Painting from nature is not a matter of copying the subject but of expressing one’s feelings.” Cezanne

After a mad morning I finally made it to the Cézanne exhibition and as I walked in, I breathed a sigh as calmness descended. I love Cézanne’s work – the way he worked fast creating an impressing of a landscape without becoming bogged down in the detail. I feel as if he was enjoying the process of creating and not aiming at an end product.

There were a number of his sketches which are rough and use a mixture of watercolour and graphite. There are vertical pencil lines to suggest the trees while the leaves are in soft watercolours of blues, greens and purple which are calming and delight the eye. They are certainly not overworked and in their unfinished state the white spaces are just as important as the filled areas. It is as if he captured the gist of a view and then moved on. My favourite oil painting was Mont Sainte-Victoire (1904-06) and it was amazing to finally see it because in my final school year we had to study a post-impressionist in detail and then create a work in the style of the artist. I chose Cézanne and then in the spirit of the post-impressionists, I set myself with an easel and oils in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (Cape Town) and painted the view of the mountain. One of the things that struck me was how quickly and easy it was to paint with flat brushstrokes and yet challenging to fill the area without it becoming too two-dimensional.

In the painting Mont Sainte-Victoire I could see how loose his style was with the gleaming paint suggesting flickering light through the clouds. As Cézanne’s work became less descriptive it become more abstract and he began to simplify his shapes into basic squares, rectangles and cubes hence he is often known as the father of Cubism. I wanted to buy the postcard of the painting but it looked so dull after seeing the real thing that I didn’t bother – I think I will just visit again with my children in tow.

The exhibition is at the Ashmolean in Oxford until the 22 June 2014 and is well worth visiting.

About this post: My 2014 resolution is to visit a creative place every month.
January – The Ashmolean: Malcolm Morley
February – Oxford School of Photography


A solitary Moore


Ashmolean interior with Morely in the background – no photography of his work allowed!

My resolution this year is to visit a creative place once a month. After procrastinating for about 3 months on visiting the Bacon and Moore exhibition at the Ashmolean, I thought that it would be a perfect January outing, only to discover it ended 4 days ago so I had to make do with a solitary Moore at the entrance. It was a rather lovely reclining figure although she looked like I sometimes feel on the beach.You start off feeling comfortable but your bones become awkward shapes and the sand is not as soft as you anticipated! I wandered inside and ended up seeing Malcolm Morley who has been painting for the last 50 years. He was one of the founders of hyper-realism which was a reaction to the pop-art of the 1960s. His style began to break up from realism and became more paintily and he became progressively loose in his style dripping paint in the fashion of Pollock. By the 2000s his style had become smooth and stylised and it reminded me of airbrushed art. The pictures look as if they were painted from photos, have flat surfaces and an intended kitschness. I don’t much like his work and preferred his very earliest style which was much more tactile. However it was interesting to study his progression over the years. I had to laugh at a comment I overheard, “A car crash – rather unpleasant subject matter for a painting.” Perhaps for that woman it was just as well it wasn’t Bacon! Note to self: DON’T miss Cezanne in March.

Morley paintings (from the catalogue)

Morley paintings (from the catalogue)

Oxford from Cafe Loco

Oxford from Cafe Loco

printmakers1 printmakers2 printmakers3 printmakers4You have got to be fast and on the ball when the printmakers have their party! Each year all the members donate a print which is sold at a fraction of its usual price to raise funds for the society. I was invited to come along this year with my mum who is a member. You walk into the working studio full of printing presses and machinery which were draped in festive tinsel. But don’t waste too much time admiring the surroundings, look on the walls and take what you love! I was too slow and although I had only been there 5 minutes, I missed a print of the Isis River. Fortunately there were other prints by the same artist, Susan Wheeler, and this time I didn’t deliberate but made a fast decision and grabbed all three. They are to be my Christmas present from my mum and can’t wait to receive them.

The Oxford Printmakers’ Party is an annual event which I recommend putting in the diary, I will definitely be back next year for excellent and affordable art.

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Private Road with Annie by Paul Kessling

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The Modern Artists Gallery

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Painting above: Private Road Ghosts. Painting below (left): The Smalls – Celtic Deep. Painting below (right): Private Road Night

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Private Road Ghosts – the reflections add yet another dimension to this painting

Visiting an art gallery with a pre-schooler in tow is a challenge but sometimes you need to seize the opportunity. I recently went off to The Modern Artists Gallery to see Paul Kessling’s exhibition ‘Above above’ which was thoroughly inspiring. He is exploring new styles of work including fat slabs of rich colour that dribble paint drops. To counterbalance these abstract paintings are realistic images where the landscape appears to draw you in surrounding you by sea and sky. However, my favourites were his series of Private Road paintings. One of the reasons for this is that the private road he draws his inspiration from is near our home. I love cycling up the Ridgeway and looking down at the Private Road that links two villages with an austere line of pines running parallel to it. Sometimes these trees are shrouded in mist, sometimes they slice up the eyewatering oil seed rape fields and sometimes they shimmer in a dazzling heat. Admittedly the latter is seldom! In the image ‘Private Road with Annie’ the trees appear to loom and shroud the spectator and Annie becomes a dog shaped hole. This illusion is exaggerated by the sheer size of the painting and it was definitely my favourite. I often wonder about the history of these trees on the Private Road and wish I knew who planted them and why, and if they mark an ancient route. I know that Scots pine trees were used as ancient way-markers to demarcate drover roads when sheep and cattle were walked long distances to market. They were also used to mark where trackways crossed particularly on high ground or to act as a sign post that the farmer would buy and sell stock however it seems odd to see an entire row of trees so close together.

Paul’s comment sums up much of what I feel, “There is something very mysterious about this track; the trees preside over a modern agricultural landscape like Easter Island statues. Behind them sit Grim’s Ditch and the Ridgeway; they stand as sentinels to a farming past that has been replaced with vast fields which lay bare the undulations of the earth’s  surfaces.”

View Paul Kessling’s website here:
Read about my Larks and Drovers’ walk on my blog

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My pre-schooler has now finished admiring art!

Mel Lawson has been dabbling in the painting of interesting pieces of furniture and it has become a passion which she is thinking of taking forward as a business. With this in mind and as Christmas is fast approaching, Mel is hosting a Sample Sale to gain feedback on her new business idea and provide an opportunity for Christmas shopping. A number of us will be presenting our wares to add to the festive atmosphere. I have been invited to bring along my range of ‘Loving Letters’ cards and have been packaging and printing cards ready for Friday. Supporting Mel will be:

  • Tania Watson with her gorgeous hand-made KittyClips
  • Emily Macaulay with her original cards
  • Tessa Case with ‘Loving Letters’ cards
  • Lin Kerr’s orchid cards and giclées prints
  • Jan Osbourne with beautiful hand-made cushions and
  • Annabel Wheedon with a great array of Stella & Dot jewellery

If you are in Oxfordshire do pop in on Friday 23rd November, 12:00 – 3:00pm at Symonds Farm, Childrey OX12 9UA.

Glowing, luminous and jewel-like describe Lin Kerr’s orchid watercolours and I was delighted to attend the private viewing of her art at Dolphin Art Gallery. Lin is a lettering artist with a creative and diverse portfolio and her latest project has been exploring orchids in watercolour. She recently went on holiday to Singapore and, as artists do packed her paints, paper and brushes with a little space for a sarong or two. She knew she wanted to paint but it wasn’t until she arrived at the airport that the subject matter became obvious – orchids. There were masses of orchids everywhere from the airport shops to the local botanical gardens.

Orchids offer their own challenges as you paint because you can become distracted by the complexity of stems and leaves. Lin’s approach was to focus on the bloom and to float it in white space so that the flower becomes slightly abstract and we can appreciate its gorgeous colours and shapes. Lin also introduced a cartouche which acts as a design element and adds another layer of interest in the painting. A cartouche originates from Egyptian hieroglyphs where it was an oval with a horizontal line at one end which enclosed symbols and was used as a royal signature. Lin’s cartouches incorporate the name of the orchid.

Make sure a watercolour art-piece is on your Christmas wish list! Prices start at £95 for an unframed giclée (a giclée is a high quality reproduction on textured art paper).

Lin is exhibiting with Penny Gould who is a botanical artist and if you are near Wantage in Oxfordshire, visit Dolphin Art Gallery to see these talented women. The exhibition is from 15 – 24 September 2012 and they are also demonstrating their skills. Penny is demonstrating on Wednesday 19 September from 12.00 to 2.00pm and Lin is demonstrating on Monday 17 and 24 September from 12.00 to 2.00pm.

Visit Lin’s blog at
View more of Penny Gould’s work on this link

Penny Gould (Botanical Artist) and Lin Kerr (Watercolourist)

Opening of ‘Flowers’ Exhibition at Dolphin Art Gallery


Peahorse Blue

Above are a few more of the beautiful sculptures to be seen at the On Form Exhibition. As lovely as the sculptures are, it is as much of a treat to wander around the lake and grounds of Asthall with its lavender, floppy roses, daisies, lady’s mantles and wildflowers. Asthall Manor dates from the seventeenth century but occupies a medieval site and I first became aware of it through my interest in the Mitford sisters who were its most famous residents and lived here between 1919 – 1926. You can read more about them on this link to a previous blog entry. Do go visit On Form if you are near Oxfordshire, open from 17 June – 15 July 2012.

Asthall Manor garden

Leading to the gardens

Asthall Manor

Moody sculpture in St. Nicholas’ Church

Endless Balance

The ‘ Please do touch’ policy!

Stone parcels wrapped up with rope

My biennial treat – a visit to Asthall Manor to see the Sculpture in Stone Exhibition. Wandering around the glorious grounds, enjoying the sculptures and the way they interact with the landscape, laughing with the children as we hide in the hammock or following secret pathways is a perfect way to spend a summer’s day. My favourite was Endless Balance by Peter Brooke-Ball. Stones were roped up in a tree using pulleys. By pulling one down, you caused another to move upwards and I loved the way the heavy stones appeared weightless and the changed perception of the tree. I love pebbles and these stone parcels wrapped up with rope seemed like enormous beach pebbles. Sculpture with a ‘please do touch’ policy is the perfect way to introduce children to art and asking them what a piece reminds them of can provoke a profound response. There was even a children’s workshop and for two hours they were able to create their own artwork from alabaster while we continued to explore the garden and St. Nicholas’ church. It was there that I really felt I needed a tripod as the low light called for a long shutter speed. But necessity is the mother of invention, and a 300 year old church chair was surreptitiously moved into position and worked well as a substitute tripod to photograph the sculpture.

On Form is open from 17 June – 15 July 2012

Children concentrating in their sculpture workshop

A chocolate door and a glorious turkish delight room

The door to Roald Dahl's Writing Hut

Reminiscents of Dahl, the fighter pilot

Reminiscences of Dahl, the fighter pilot

A life less ordinary

What a magical day we spent at the Roald Dahl museum, the graphics, the displays, the humour capture the essence of his books. It is a small museum and extremely well-considered with interactive displays for children and much for adults to delight in. Towards the end of 2011, the interior and extraordinary contents of  Dahl’s entire Writing Hut was transported to the museum and set up exactly as he had it. A fantabulous day out – so which is YOUR favourite Roald Dahl story?

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

The Hungry Crocodile bench. Children beware!

Fresh from the printers… my mini calendars are selling (or being given away by me) fast. They make good stocking fillers, thank you gifts or to enjoy on your desk depicting the beautiful local countryside. They are also being sold at the Vale and Downland museum at the ‘Gift to Delight Exhibition’ which is open until 22 December – a great place to buy presents, so pop in if you need to do a little last-minute shopping.

I am not obsessed but ever since reading the fascinating biography of The Mitford Sisters, I have been intrigued to learn more about these six controversial sisters especially when I realised that the youngest daughter is still alive and is now the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, aged 91 and until recently lived in Chatsworth. Her son, the 12 Duke of Devonshire, and his wife now live there. Richard and I had a weekend sans children and used it to explore Chatsworth and what a fabulous time we had – the palace is soaked in history and yet is also a family home. Opening it to the public has given us a great privilege to enjoy treasures in the house and gardens. It helps when you have ‘Capability’ Brown and Paxton in your landscaping retinue and a number of the dukes were collectors of treasures and sculptures on a grand scale. I loved the surprises around each corner – wickerwork entwined into trees like giant seed pods, bronze Greyhounds against a stark background and a sculpture gate incorporating the scenery. When Richard had enough of my photography, he decided to try some silly walks… and we left to find our hotel. Want to know more, read the following books: The Mitford Girls and Wait for Me. Even better, go and visit Chatsworth itself.

After much plotting and planning, I finally made it to Hatfield House to see the exhibition of Henry Moore’s sculptures. I love his work, the bold solid shapes so indicative of pebbles,vertebrae seed pods and rolling hills. Moore is able to suggest the human figure with a few evocative curves that are much more powerful than getting bogged down in details. When we arrived at the gardens, it was raining which was disappointing until I realised that the drops on bronze and reflections in puddles brought a new dimension to his work. I would love to return and spend time alone drawing and photographing but it was satisfying to watch the children feel the art and enjoy exploring the shapes from inside out. My irreverent friend also had a go at getting in touch with his artistic self. And at the end of the day we collected windfall apples and parsley from the formal gardens to complete our supper preparations.

If you have the opportunity do visit Moore at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, open until 30 September 2011.

Colin Moore


In the textile marquee

A potter at work

Feltmaking - A Dalmatian by Isabel (age 5)

Art in Action was inspiring and uplifting, it is a four-day festival in the beautiful grounds of Waterperry with artists and craftsmen of all disciplines demonstrating their skills and discussing their work. We arrived early and spent a day immersed in ceramics, prints, woodwork, illustrations, textiles and story tellers enjoying a sensory overload. I especially liked Colin Moore’s linoprints and am trying to decide if we should buy one. Watching pots being thrown was magical as a ball of porcelain was ‘pinched’ upwards transforming itself into a jug. Roanna Wells’ delicate thread work in subtle greys created shallow layers of depth like a misty haze. Jackie Morris, a children’s illustrator, was there with beautiful books to buy which she would sign. Art in Action is exactly that – and it is such a pleasure to see the artists at work, meet them and be part of their enthusiasm. The children loved watching the glass blowing and even had a go in the craft courses making pottery vase faces, and Isabel made a delightful dog out of felt who certainly deserves to be framed.