Esther Lafferty reveals the wealth of talent on view in the county's visual arts festival

The spring is knocking at our door and in the office we’re keeping our fingers crossed for sunshine for Oxfordshire Artweeks (May 3-26), the county’s visual arts festival, during which artists and designer-makers throw open more than 400 doors and invite you to explore their studios and other interesting art spaces. However, whether or not the weather is kind and flowers burst forth vibrant in beds and verges, we can still guarantee that the county will be alive with colour next month to delight and stimulate both mind and eye.

Colour, whether in the world around us or on canvas, can have a visceral effect upon us and has long been used to express and invite emotions. Aside from pure depiction and representations of the familiar portrayed with a technical skill most of us can only envy, the colours and materials of a piece of art can portray a vast spectrum of ideas, narratives, cultures and memories. Many paintings that blur the line between representative art and abstraction have an incredible capacity to transport one to another place entirely, the viewer’s interpretation completing the creative process. You can experience this through the work of Oxfordshire artists such as Janine Philips (venue 90; Thame) and Addy Gardner (venue 327; Jericho), whose very different dramatic lines, sweeps and textures of colour strongly evoke land and seascapes.

And art is so much more than the application of paint to paper or canvas — if defined as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination in a visual form to make something appreciated primarily for its beauty or emotional power, art encompasses an enormous array of possibilities. During Artweeks, you can explore a wealth of talent from ethical fashion and theatre set design to ‘Heath Robinson’ sculpture inspired by industrial archaeology, and flowers fashioned from spent armaments.

Just like the world around us, art is continually transforming — many of the things we take for granted as art today were innovations in their day. Oil paints were a relatively untried medium in the early 15th century, for example, and technical innovations such as plastics in the 20th century or today’s digital technology offer new possibilities. To explore where electronics meets art, take a trip to the diverse and creative maker community at Oxford Hackspace (venue 302, city centre).

BBC arts editor Will Gompertz recently called Artweeks ‘a highlight of his cultural calendar’, noting that ‘the breadth and depth of the art on display is always eye-boggling: quality and quantity guaranteed. What’s more, it’s affordable and often comes with a warm cuppa or a chilled wine!’ The Artweeks festival guides are now available, free, at libraries and local information points across the county. Happy browsing!

To download the festival guide or search online by area, artist, creative media visit
Look out for the Artweeks flags around the place.