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The Oxford Open – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

12 Jan 2008 / in about art, events
Yesterday evening, Moth and I went to the artists’ preview event of
The Oxford Open exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, in which my own painting, Ridgeway Parade is being shown.

I had no idea what I would face, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be as good as it was! We spent more than 2 happy hours moving from piece to piece, examining as many as we could before ‘gallery fatigue’ finally set in. With 500 works on show there was so much to take in!

For an ‘unselected’ show (that is, there was no panel of ‘experts’ to select which paintings to be included) I was thrilled to see that so many works were of an extraordinarily high quality.

Yes of course there was stuff that we didn’t like, stuff that we didn’t ‘get’, pretentious stuff and stuff that was just plain ‘shart’. (You can guess for yourself what two words our composite word ‘shart’ is made up from.)


We felt that perhaps more than 70% of the work was good or high quality, and displayed exciting creative talent in media from paintings, photography to ceramics, sculpture and video.

Here are a few of my highlights.

Exhibit 513: Paul Amey’s Red Bird. A charming and simple sculpture which I could easily be persuade to buy:

Exhibit 315: Adrian Moyes’ Two masts. Adrian, who is a neighbour produces some intriguing an thoughtful landscapes based on digitally manipulated photographs. This one skewed perspective, making the view seem at one moment deep and distant, the next moment flat and textural. Lovely!

Exhibit 390: Walter Cundy’s Disguise 1 (Jay). A dead jay (one of my favourite British birds) hung in a framed case made a bizarre and macabre exhibit. I loved it, though; a celebration of simple and natural beauty and a powerful statement about life and freedom.

Exhibit 206: Suzy Prior’s At home. Suzy’s photographic montage of her home town made colourful and fascinating viewing of ordinary things. Photographic haiku.

Exhibit 208: Emma Cockburn’s Garissa. My friend Emma displayed these three carefully considered photos she took in Kenya. She told me “it’s a statement about hope about Africa.”

Exhibit 86: Emma Dougherty’s Philharmonic XXV. This montage of stamps from all over the world, arranged thematically by predominant colour or subject blew me away!

But there were plenty more I enjoyed, like exhibit 269: Heather Saunders’ simple European Leaf beetle, exhibit 127 Patsy Jones’ moody and Piperesque Wayland’s Smithy, Mo Schofield’s elegantPeacock Platter and Alistair Thompson’s philosophical work Some of my doodles, which featured the legend “Drunk people go looking for a fight. Stoned people go looking for chocolate”.

I was delighted to see that many of my fellow artists from Eynsham were exhibiting; Adrian, Sue, Lorna, Graham, Elsa, Xavier. Fabulous stuff!

Allow me a rant for a mo, though. Moth and I noticed a number of works called ‘Untitled’. What a cop out! If you can be bothered to make a work, then why not bother to give it a name? Unless it is being using it in some obviously amusing or ironic way, when I see a work called ‘Untitled’, I feel cheated or hoodwinked. C’mon fellow ‘Untitled’ artists, use your imaginations and stop trying to be so pretentious!


But seriously, you could take anyone to this show and everyone would find something to delight and stimulate them. It’s exciting, unexpected and a real artistic voyage of discovery. Truly, this is art for and by the people. Democratic art perhaps, free from high-brow selection panels, critics and so-called art experts. And I’m really rather proud to be part of it!


Me with my painting Ridgeway Parade

The exhibition is on at Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, Oxford, OX1 1BP from today until 17 February. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm, and Sundays 12pm – 5pm, closed Mondays. Phone 01865 813830 for information.

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