A display of coastal work brings the sea inland for Artweeks 2015 and Esther Lafferty dips her toe in the water

You can’t get much further from the English coastline than Oxfordshire: however, Oxford isn’t one of the world’s intellectual hotspots for nothing! We’re going to make one!

Oxfordshire Artweeks, the giant visual arts festival that takes place across the county each spring, has decided to bring the sea to the heart of the Dreaming Spires with Oxford’s Sea View, a exhibition by leading county artists who take their inspiration at the edges of this island.

In that way, they will bring the the coast, in its many guises, back to our rural idyll in the middle of England.

Janine Philips, from Thame, is an avid surfer and paints in the open air on the beach, her wetsuit at the ready.

“I have to be quick, you see,” she laughs, “to capture the light and the way it dances on the water because the clouds shoot across the sky so fast and, as time and tide wait for no man – or artist – you’ll never see that exact same view again.”

Janine has always been drawn to water and its reflective qualities.

“I never tire of looking at the unpredictable rhythm of waves and the sense of depth felt when looking at the distant horizon,” she explains.

Her Devon sunsets over the water and big seascapes, both representational and abstract, always evoke a sense of place.

Rich blue stripes glint with the ephemeral qualities of sunshine, as the rich texture of oil paint applied thickly with a palette knife, like the waves, changes with the moving light.

Jane Vaux moved to Wantage from Devon and, although she loves her new residence, her strong seascapes show the cliffs, the boats and the swell where she lived previously.

In an oilskin installation called Fisherman’s Blues, textile artist Claire Blackburn records the story of the fishing community and Oxford Mail journalist and art critic Sarah Mayhew Craddock is preparing a contemporary installation specially for the venue.

In a mixed media series placing emphasis on the surface level while acknowledging the mystery of “what lies beneath”, Mayhew Craddock contemplates the deeper water beyond, seeing parallels in this and the personalised nature of decision-making, of pathways in art and life and the way one’s environment can dictate direction.

John Stephen’s The Three Graces on the Beach is based on a famous sculpture in the Louvre, a wonderful figure group in marble by Jean Jacques Pradier.

The figures have been transported by Stephen to a hazy beach setting in a painting both simplified and yet monumental. The memories of Jim Robinson, a Chalgrove artist, of playing with cousins on Bexhill beach in the 1960s is painted in the palette of the early Ladybird books, while a childhood in India provides a touch of beach nostalgia, alongside an unusual and light-hearted depiction of beach ephemera by Harwell’s Robert Strange.

And it’s the dynamic light brush of painter Jill Colchester, who is acclaimed for her figurative art, showing bathers in coloured swimsuits dancing in the white horses, that are catching the eye of Gena Johns, arts manager at The Jam Factory.

“They make me want to rush into the canvas,” she smiles.

And, for those who would like to enjoy a sea view without the queue of traffic heading towards the coast, just visit The Jam Factory.

Oxford’s Sea View, an Oxfordshire Artweeks exhibition, is at The Jam Factory Park End Street, Oxford, April 1-29 10am-11pm