Anne James views paintings by Radley College’s famous alumnus

In addition to his distinguished public career, Sir Patrick Nairne was also an accomplished water-colourist, a member and latterly an honorary member of the Oxford Art Society (OAS). Sir Patrick was educated at Radley College and later a member of the school’s governing body. The OAS have wanted for some time to celebrate their former illustrious member. All of which led to the decision to stage this year’s Spring Members’ Exhibition at the stunning newly opened Sewell Arts Centre, at Radley.

The exhibition includes eight of Sir Patrick’s watercolours, amongst them View from the Master’s Lodge, St Catherine’s College, Oxford 1984 and Cotswold Village (unidentified) 2002. His family hope someone will identify which village it is! As well as Sir Patrick’s work, there are 100 other pieces on show. Almost a quarter are sculptures. They include Rosemary Earl’s moving portrait in marble: Mother& Lamb, in which the head of the latter lies at a dependant 90 degrees to its mother, the uncertain future of both underlined by the bi-focated piece of driftwood on which they are mounted.

There are two powerful pieces in alabaster: a soulful Head, by Briony Lawson, and a complex configuration of angelic combustion Angels of the Vault by Frederic Chevarin. There are satisfyingly precise geometric mixed media pieces by Johannes von Strumm: Square and the Three Circles and Star, the latter executed in glass, stone, steel, bronze and wood. Alison Berman has made two delicate pieces in papier mâché on painted wood bases each featuring three mystical horses with impossibly elongated legs and coats burnished with the colours of dreams.

Animals feature too in a number of the 2D pieces: Nicky Cooney brings her wit and clever mixes of lino cut and chine colle to Duck Pond and Blue Sky, in which intersecting circles meet, one containing a phalanx of upright bulrushes the other a melee of indecisive ducks.

Included too are landscapes, many of Oxford and Oxfordshire. They include Alan Mynall’s Oxford from South Hinksey, where the city is captured in exquisite detail and light, uplifting colours; Denny Webb’s gloriously golden watercolour of the Wittenham Clumps: The Barn at the Clumps, the barn in question presiding over a deeply ploughed field, with a black sky beyond, against which the Clumps announce themselves in semi-circles of colour; and Susan Wheeler’s White Horse Hill, a multi-plate lino cut, where fields in acid greens and golds draw voluptuous lines across the piece, whilst a sinuous White Horse disports itself in the foreground.

Other celebrations of nature include Ken Organ’s acrylic painting Five Oak Trees, in which their majestic presence is further emphasised by the complex blues of a cloud-free sky behind them.

The Sewell Centre includes a Screen Room, in which a slide show of other work by OAS members is running. This is a ‘fringe’ to the main exhibition, comprising work submitted rather than selected, but it too serves to remind of the extraordinary range of talent that exists among members of the OAS.

Oxford Art Society Members’ Exhibition
Sewell Centre Gallery, Radley College
Until March 24