ART: A watery world in West Oxfordshire

As Artweeks continues, spawning venues across North Oxfordshire, The Thames and the wildlife within have inspired artist and illustrated map-maker Jane Tomlinson’s latest work, a colourful depiction of British Rivers populated by twenty of the British Isles’ fish species from Stickleback and Salmon as well as boats and birds. Passionate about animals and the environment herself, the map was inspired by her son’s continuing obsession with the watery pastime. ‘He pulled his first roach out of the river Thames as a 3-year-old,’ smiles Jane, ‘and much like the roach, he was hooked! His fascination for fish and angling led to a deep love of natural sciences and – like the rivers – to the sea. He now works in the field of marine biological resources!’

Jane (Artweeks venue 364) is showing her fish alongside birds and other beasts from both local and far flung places alongside her brother’s delicate drawings of the built environment, views of Oxford, Stratford, Cyprus and Turkey.

You can enjoy leaping fish in three dimensions at a working studio exhibition in a tranquil courtyard garden in the thriving artistic community of Bampton (Artweeks venue 352). Here two artists fascinated by movement and refracted light below the surface of the water show sculptures in alabaster, limestone and slate and mixed media paintings and prints of wild swimmers moving through the water, as seen from below.

David Williams is a stone-carver with an interest in nature and capturing movement in a still whether that’s in a digital image or a piece of rock. ‘A few years ago I went to Iceland photographing birds in flight, inspired by the pioneering late 19th-century photographer Eadward Muybridge, the first person to capture a horse with all four feet off the ground at the same time. Then I spent a week in Wales watching trout leap out of a lake, too fast to catch on film! Fish are incredibly gymnastic, and I loved their twists and turns, and then almost as soon as they had appeared, they were gone. I am trying to capture these moments, too fleeting for the eye to really see, in stone,’ he smiles.

‘This inspired my sculpture ‘Leaping Fish.’ I carved it from blue Alabaster, a stone which seems to ‘foam’ at its edges and, in its natural form, is both translucent and opaque in patches so it almost looks like water.’ This sculpture shows the same trout in five different positions as it passes through the air like multiple exposures of a single fish’s leap, an interpretation that catches the shapes, mood and freshness of the event itself.

Other pieces on show include a pair of pale pink fish gliding silkily past one another in smooth soapstone, and reeds and grasses in green serpentine. ‘I hope they look as if you could push them aside and swim through! I like the contrast of using a hard material to represent the most fluid of substances, trying to make something seem like something it absolutely isn’t!’ smiles David.

‘I also use local limestone my stone carving: it’s rich in fossils because this area was once underwater and this stone was created by aquatic organisms on the seabed.

David’s sculptures are on show alongside paintings and prints made by Susie Helm another artist inspired by water. ‘I love open-water swimming, and also enjoy drawing and painting figures so combining the two, with all the odd shapes and wonderful light inspires my painting,’ she explains.

Artweeks continues until 27th May. For infomation on these and hundreds of other venues visit www.artweeks.org

First published in The Oxford Times

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