SARAH MAYHEW looks forward to the burst of creativity that heralds Artweeks

Creativity blossoms across the county for the 31st year as Oxfordshire Artweeks enters its fourth decade. And just as daffodils multiply year on year, so do the artists and makers participating in this, the longest-running and biggest open studios event in the UK.

The Oxfordshire Artweeks guide sees 114 pages packed to the brim with about 1,000 artists and makers, including more than 200 exciting and beautiful new exhibitors for 2013, all working towards nearly 500 exhibitions and events that will take place across Oxfordshire between and May 4 and 27.

Encompassing fine art, outsider art, folk art and craft, new exhibitors ensure that Oxfordshire Artweeks remains fresh while retaining many of the exhibitors that participate in this prestigious and well-established event each year.

Painters and photographers, glass workers, metal sculptors, wood turners, stone carvers, jewellers, print makers and textile artists will all be opening their homes and studios across the county to the public for free and showcasing their talent through demonstrations, exhibitions and workshops throughout May.

Try as you might, having reached the scale that this open entry, free visitor admission event has achieved, you’d be hard-pushed to get around the entire event – even with a three week holiday with which to explore all of the creativity on our doorsteps.

So, I’ve flicked through the guide, and picked out a minute fraction of the stand-out artists, makers and venues that struck me as being among the most intriguing…

  • Oxford City – May 4-12 Far removed from the usual front room or studio format of Oxfordshire Artweeks, OVADA (Oxford Visual Arts Development Agency) is opening up its new premises in Osney Lane in Oxford (venue 56) for an exhibition that sees emerging curators respond to their new warehouse space.

The curators have entitled their exhibition The Romance of Dereliction, and are inviting artists to draw from the vein-like cracks, scabbing paint, and raw brickwork of the warehouse’s state of dereliction to channel creativity. Exhibiting artists include Aliki Braine, Emma Papworth, Zsuzsanna Nyul, Robert Rapoport and Mary Robinson.

  • East Oxford in particular will become a warren of artwork with interesting exhibitions at every turn from Jon Mackay’s album art in Truck Store (venue 20), Alan Franklin’s abstract drawings on Green Street (venue 26), and Caroline Maas’s etchings in Stratford Street (venue 33), to name but a few.

Look out for a portrait of the BBC arts editor, Will Gompertz, on a wall at venue 173 in Wolvercote, where Tom Croft is exhibiting. Gompertz will be in conversation with Jim White in the Bodleian Library’s Divinity School on May 11 as part of the Artweeks lecture series, Art Talks.

  • South Oxfordshire – May 11-19 Having inspired and taught her trade to a wealth of other local sculptors, Pat Elmore will be exhibiting in a 1.5-acre garden at Nutford Lodge in Longcot (venue 191). The subject matter of Elmore’s oeuvre tends to be taken from her immediate environment of the Vale of White Horse. Work on display will include carved stone animals, details inspired by the rolling countryside and her handsome family.

Charlotte Berry and Liz Fletcher are exhibiting unashamedly decadent and undeniably exquisite looking jewellry, silverware and fine leatherwork at Bradley Farm in Cumnor (venue 203).

Another exhibition that appears unmissable is that of Philip Koomen exhibiting at Wheelers Barn, Bradleys Street, Checkendon (venue 237). Koomen is an established and highly acclaimed designer-craftsman dedicated to designing and making bespoke furniture for people who appreciate beautiful, sustainable woods and craftsmanship. His designs are simply stunning.

  • North Oxfordshire – May 18-27 Exhibiting at venue 287, Bicester’s Eco Demonstration Building in Garth Park, is Youth of Bicester, a dynamic group of young people who have joined forces to create a youth action team. Led by their motto ‘Changing the community for the better: young people inspiring and being inspired!’ their mission is to make exciting and lively things happen in their community using creativity as a catalyst for inspiring change.

Drawing on this ethos, they have curated an exhibition in collaboration with Artweeks that features the inspiring work of young emerging artists. The exhibition will showcase a range of creative practice from early career drawing, fashion and photography to ceramics, painting and digital animation. Aiming to inspire the next generation of artists in Bicester and beyond this exhibition provides a platform for emerging artists to share and promote their work.