A busy weekend of events for Oxford’s most artistically motivated social group. On Saturday, we visited the 03 Gallery in the Castle Complex for Drawing Show II by artists from Magdalene Rd Studios. Participant Kelly Dunagan, interviewed in the Oxford Mail, stated that the works on display ‘related to the idea of drawing,’ (rather than actually being drawings, presumably). She endeared herself by adding, “some installation artists…struggled a bit”. I doubt most were too bothered about the artistic means, as long as the end results had merit. Kelly’s own ‘Swallow’ was an impressive study, crumpled and delicate, but vibrant with colour and immaculately detailed. Once the Arts Group had arrived, we had the usual argument about whether the worthy but unexceptional or the ‘risible-slash-revolutionary’ most warranted a three figure price tag, our battleground this time being a simple graphite sketch of a mixing bowl(?) with broken porcelain eggshell, and a fair to middling landscape, the discourse soon getting bogged down in the old ‘I could do that – and wouldn’t bother! – ‘Ah, but you didn’t!’ quagmire. To my mind, dismissing conceptual work offers no clearer proof of its potency than praising figurative art confirms its limitations, though I’m not sure that even makes sense. But if you like how it sounds, please send £145, the price of each work of art on display.
While the the group went round the gallery, nodding and tutting before heading off to meet friends, catch buses, or find somewhere for coffee, I grabbed a pencil (symbolically perhaps) and a price list (in lieu of a guide), and made a few jottings. I probably didn’t stay long enough to do any of the work real justice, but for what it’s worth, these were my impressions: Madi Acharya-Baskerville’s miniature oil and glass paintings on driftwood had a timeless beauty, particularly the images of peasant women glimpsing a vision of paradise. Sonia Boue’s mixed media, ‘Draw me a life’, one for ‘Mum’ and the other ‘Dad’, incorporating images of gates, letters and other personal mementos, was touching and not overly sentimental. In terms of pure abstraction, Luke Skffington’s ‘Palette Drawing’ presented ‘strips of metal files cut and woven like fibres’, or ‘black and white banana skins exploding over graph paper’ (I couldn’t decide which), while Tom De Freston’s collage of black and white sketches, including what looked like a pyjama case horse being raped by tree, had unquestionable comic vigour. As far as colour work was concerned, Les McMinn served up a sumptuous purpley yellow acrylic paint stew inspired by the holy Hindu city of Varanasi, and Jo Stannard’s ‘Blue sky Cones (Four)’ on white backgrounds was quite simply that. There were several photographs in the exhibition, including a study of Iffley Lock, the structure’s reflection making a circle among the ripples, and more unfathomably, a Finnish apartment block, glimpsed through what might have been a melting ice cube.
Other works in the show left less of an impression, with the possible exception of Claudia Figueiredo’s mixed media collage (below left). I’m coming to realise the importance of titles in tying creation to concept, much the same as with poetry, where more obscure pieces almost always benefit from a little guidance on the part of the narrator. In Claudia’s case, a paper grille, overlaid with sand-toned card, flock wallpaper and a photo of two ice skaters, gained substance through simple application of the label ‘Cement ll’.
The idea of cohesiveness in art was discussed when we met up at La Tasca afterwards. Jeremy Darge, who runs East Oxford Drawing Collective, took the lead in this exchange. It was Jeremy’s first event with the group, and he was so knowledgeable, erudite and modest, that I could have listened to him for hours without necessarily agreeing with a single word he said, but nonetheless richer for the experience, and maybe even with my mind prised an inch or two further open. Jeremy singled out Anna Morris’s ‘Passing through’ for praise, pointing out how the gold and grey rectangles combined to create a sense of flow, something I’d overlooked, or perhaps the artist hadn’t made apparent, and serving as a reminder not to ignore the obvious, as well as the abstract, when considering works of art.
So the afternoon reached a tingly climax, with talk of art, the group and our plans for the future, and what a splendid thing it is to meet with fellow arts enthusiasts in such a convivial context. Not only that, but what a rubbish idea it is to sit outside in February when somebody lacks a jacket and has to request, “the hottest coffee ever made” simply to avoid hypothermia. However, despite chattering teeth and my brain having been numbed to the point of imbecility by the end of the afternoon, it was an enjoyable outing and we were in good shape for The Carducci Quartet at St John’s the following afternoon.
Photos used by permission of Madi Acharya-Baskerville – for further information: http://www.magdalenroadstudios.com/