Spheres of influence at 03 Gallery

3:40pm Thursday 3rd April 2008

By Jo Halstead

It seems that the Oxford art scene is a lot like buses, you wait for one exhibition, and three come at once.

With a handful of shows opening their doors next week, there is a lot to look forward to and I'll be very busy. However, due to the slight drought this week, I only managed to get one show under my belt, but I'm glad to report that the old saying about rating quality over quantity rang true.

So, the fantastic exhibition in question is Tell Me a Picture, at the O3 gallery, which features the work of four illustrators and three book artists. I went to the private view and was dressed up to the nines, due to a prior arrangement set for afterwards. I arrived very late, which aside from meaning there was only 15 minutes to go, also meant I had missed out on any potential eye candy (not that I trawl exhibitions looking for hot arty guys to peruse, but it was a Friday night, so give a single girl a break!) Anyway, I digress. I was handed a glass of wine by a friendly American girl (Note to friendly American girl: what shade was your nail varnish?) and took a rushed look at the work while stumbling around in my heels.

I whipped around the exhibition like Speedy Gonzales, complete with the very good intention of visiting the next day to have a proper gander. And so after my night out, and with a very slightly sore head, I visited for a second time on Saturday and had a proper look. Wonderful! Finally, a dedicated exhibition to illustrators and book artists.

Granted, some of the illustrations were not as innovative as others I've seen before, but it was brilliant to see a mixture of the traditional and the more quirky. And in case you had any doubt about my tastes, I always favour the quirky.

Korky Paul's book covers adorned the walls to the left. These for me are a must-see, as I loved the sense of fantasy and magic in his books when I was younger (I have a special fondness for Winnie The Witch, a childhood fave).

The amusing, fun and intricate detail of his illustrations really keep me captivated, as every time you look at one of his drawings you are hard pressed not to spot something you haven't noticed previously.

On the lower floor of the gallery are Ros Rixon's three lead crystal spheres, which housed sections of hand cut text from old books. The spheres reminded me of the human brain, a library full of combinations of words and thoughts, which is quite poetic - if I do say so myself.

On the right hand of the staircase were Joanna Walsh's works from her book All Asleep. She uses a combination of printmaking, hand-drawing and collage, and then manipulates the work using Adobe Photoshop. The images don't look computer created in the slightest, they are very textural and really retain the handmade' feel, which I have a particular affection for.

Featured are scenes such as plump mothers in patterned dresses, with chubby babies hanging from their arms. I have seen many of Joanna Walsh's pictures hanging at the Global Deli in Iffley Road, and I really rate her work. Another piece in the exhibition I particularly liked was Lucy Baxandall's The Very Unstable Human Being - A Tribute To Eric Carle, a book with an exposed spine, bound using telecom wire.

The book relays various human emotions with colour coded tissue paper taken from an Eric Carle collage kit. These colours correspond to a dictionary key, which explains what emotion each colour represents within the book.

The work is a play on The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, which was a real childhood favourite of mine that follows a ravenous caterpillar's path as he eats his way through the pages of the book itself.

The exhibition struck a real balance between comic, innovative and traditional illustration, intertwined with art based on the subject of books. Go and have a gander! (oh no, not that dreaded word again)..

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