From print-making to Halloween, art to intrigue and to unsettle

Oct 02 2017

This month, there’s rather a focus on print-making in the Oxfordshire art scene. Print-making is the process of creating original pieces of art using various hand-printing methods in which each image created is unique, even when a short ‘run’ of ‘limited edition’ prints are made and there are a number of ways to create an artist print. The first is relief printing, the handcarving of blocks of wood or linoleum so that, in a fine-art version of children’s potato printing, ‘non-image’ areas are cut away and the raised surfaces or the ‘relief’ is inked and pressed to paper. For different colours, different blocks are printed onto the same paper to create a final image. Alternatively, a single block may be used several times, each after additional carving has taken place.

Intaglio printing is the direct opposite – in that it is the ‘indentations’ between raised surfaces that hold and then transfer ink onto paper – whilst screenprinting is a stencil technique in which paint is applied through cut-outs in tightly-stretched material, and lithography is a chemical technique using an oily medium to repel water-based ink from certain parts of a stone or printing plate.

The Oxford Printmakers Cooperative (OPC) was one of the first cooperative community printing organisations to set up in the UK established an open access workshop in Oxford as the equipment required is big, heavy and expensive, together. Forty years later it has 100 members and is one of the biggest and best in the UK. Celebrating their 40th birthday this year, the latest work created by the group is on show at The Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot, in an exhibition Lasting Impressions, and includes a wealth of topics produced with many printing techniques, the inspiration ranging from seedheads to the wide open sea. Meanwhile in Oxford, The Society of Wood Engravers opens its national touring exhibition with an October exhibition in Summertown’s North Wall. Here you can see a hundred wood engravings, woodcuts and linocuts made by select artists both local and from around the world. The variety on show includes the traditional and the experimental, and the incredible effects that can be created using wood blocks are intriguing and breathtaking.

There is print-making too in The Jam Factory this month, which is hosting a mixed media exhibition encompassing print, painting and drawing. Polish artist Marcelina Amelia, a contemporary artist increasingly acclaimed on the global scene, draws inspiration from her East European heritage, from religious iconography and folk tales, childhood memories and dreams, to sexuality and the human condition. Her work plays at the tense borders between lust and innocence: it is both quirky and bold, with a stylish attitude that creates a charming and striking and yet uneasy aesthetic.

There are unsettling images too in the Old Fire Station in ‘Residents’. Facing up to dementia, despite her youth up-and-coming portrait artist Oriane Pierrepoint draws striking portraits that engage with diseases such as stroke and dementia. In floor-to-ceiling charcoal pictures, you can meet Mary, Joan and June face-to-face, and read in their faces the process of ageing and its associated anxieties. Because of a long-standing interest in the biomedical sciences, her portraits deliberately confront the unwillingness of society as she sees it – or some sectors within society – to recognise the difficulties faced by its most vulnerable members.

‘One of the most valuable attributes of the visual arts,’ she continues, ‘is its ability to transport us into an individual’s situation and self.’ And as an artist she asks therefore whether producing a portrait that depicts an individual with dementia is therefore an insurmountable challenge when this individual’s life is slowly being dismantled, words have failed and their subject’s ‘self’ is ‘lost’?

And for something more light-hearted and yet, perhaps, equally unsettling, The Turrill Sculpture Garden behind Summertown Library in Oxford is holding a very seasonal show ‘Spiders, Creepers and Cobwebs’ as professional sculptors, ceramicists, glassmakers are inspired by Halloween.

Good places to see art this month:

The Society of Wood Engravers 80th annual exhibition (18th October-4th November)
at North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Oxford OX2 7JN

Marcelina Amelia (19th October -21st November)
The Jam Factory (Boiler Room Gallery), Hollybush Row, Oxford OX1 1HU

Residents: Oriane Pierrepont (runs until 4th November)
Arts at the Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ

Spiders, Creepers and Cobwebs (runs until 11th November)
at Turrill Sculpture Garden, South Parade, Oxford, OX2 7JN

Across the county there is a wealth of art on show in Oxfordshire this month – for a list of galleries and art venues that host a variety of changing exhibition programmes visit