Morna Rhys, Rachel Williamson, Ben Pritchard, James Nairne, Jane Peart, Michele Field and Marc Allen are all amongst an impressive list of established Art practitioners on show alongside fledgling Artists in this prestigious gallery’s ‘Open’ event. A style familiar to Modern Art Oxford is put forward by James Lucas’ ‘(Straight) Line drawing’ where harsh intersecting straight pencil lines offer something figurative only after much inspection. Similarly, Helen Hughes’ shows a textured pure white canvas entitled ‘One Way +/- 1%’. 11 pieces of video work are played on a loop offering equally challenging themes such as Jimmy Amone’s ‘The cycle of pain’. Warm and familiar locations closer to home are at hand with ‘Didcot Power Station’, ‘Wytham Millfarm Barn’ and ‘Carterton Burger Bar’ each inspiring a local Artist.
The monastic origins of Oxford perhaps inform other work indirectly such as John Williams’ ‘Church in the City’ and David Cook’s ‘Christ is Baptised, Meissen Cathedral Stained Glass’. The world-renown Natural History heritage of the University enters the gallery in the form of Walter Cundy’s ‘Disguise 1 (Jay)’ plus Martha Evans’ ‘Allium (7)’. Evans’ 7 photographs are each a section of botanical anatomy from the flower. Celia Hutchison and Philip Marston’s delicate pen and ink detailed drawing of butterflies pinned to the wall in case they flutter by. Contemporary topics are tackled head on for example Iraq, Thatcherism and corporate exploitation of third world countries (‘They Were Not Poor (1/50)’) are all in the show. Angela Burdick’s ‘Life-lines’ quite literally cannot be missed, as standing in the middle of the floor is a basket of value brand tins of ‘human kidney’.
Prices of the works for sale range for £20 to £7,000 and sizes range from tiny framed angel wings in Kay Sentance’s ‘Untitled’ to larger series of work that fully fill the one metre cubed space allowed to each artist. A maximum of one submission per person possibly explains why each work is so vibrant with something to say and communication of ideas is clear through the variety of genres represented. Cartoon pages, poetic language and memorabilia such as Peter Craig-McFeely’s ‘Pink Floyd pt 1’ are used alongside intelligent and interesting formats such as Myfanwy Lloyd’s ‘Sticker’. Sculpture is grouped centrally in the largest exhibition room. Clever representation of actors’ faces looking outward is achieved by Christine Burgess’ ‘Two Players’.
Modern Art Oxford invites each visitor to select and vote for their favourite piece opening up the organic question of personal preference in Art. Piero Bortoli’s ‘Cataracts’ is a series of honey-coloured rectangles of textured glass hung in a mobile and is, personally speaking, instinctively adorable. Light reflecting on the yellow to brown golden tones of the glass gives nothing but happiness.
Other interesting work presented in a series format is Laura Degenhardt’s ‘Corby’ and Jonathan Leighton’s ‘The City’ where the bold indifference of masculine executive activity outside Liverpool Street Underground Station is snapped onto black and white film. Jesis Escalona’s ‘Recuerdos’ explains why some works are easier to connect with. Escalona freely shares personal details in the mixed media piece. To this end, 533 artists have openly shared something of themselves in what is ultimately one giant series of work arguably reflecting the collective consciousness of our County. Whilst the exhibition has not been selected, the presentation of work is thoughtful, kind and supportive to all Artists offering a unique, exciting and educational experience to all-comers.