Esther Lafferty unearths some gems of Oxfordshire Artweeks in some unlikely parts of the city

This May, Oxfordshire Artweeks springs into life bringing colour, energy and art to every corner of the county.

With over 450 exhibitions to choose from over a three week period, with everything from paintings and photographs to fashion to furniture, get yourself a copy of the festival guide, a highlighter pen and a tall coffee and make your plan!

Here’s five suggestions for an arty afternoon out.

Take a stroll down the High Street

From an airy exhibition in Oxford’s Town Hall Gallery, head to The Chequers where local artist Andrew Manson’s big bold paintings hark back to an impressionist era, capturing perspectives of Oxford that only a local would know. Take a diversion into The Covered Market to come face-to-face with Queen Elizabeth I and other characters presented in stunning complex mosaics in Covered Arts framers, before heading down to Oxford University’s St Edmund Hall where exhibitors include students, staff and alumni and Antiques on the High where nine members of the Oxfordshire Craft Guild display their wares.

Experience another side of East Oxford

The Cloisters of St John the Evangelist on Iffley Road are a great place to start: they’re hosting eighteen professional artists with cheerful flower canvases and polkadot dogs; etching of misty mountains and sunlit seas; amazing reflections of everyday objects in striking paitings; ceramics both functional and for the modern mantelpiece; sculpture inspired by music and more.

Head out of town to Hurst Street for prints by Debbie Sutcliffe, a former medical illustrator who now depicts the human figure and face in minimal lines, exhibited in the workshop of enthusiastic printer Richard Lawrence, formerly a publisher, who is inspired by traditional printing methods. Explore fibre optic textile art and interior design along the Iffley Road, and in Iffley Village itself, enjoy metal sculpture in a beautiful landscape garden and photography by new exhibitor Robert Farrands.

Jericho: from icons to ikebana.

St Barnabas’ on Canal Street hosts a wide-ranging exhibition within an acclaimed space that is an artwork in its own right. Here you’ll find religious icons glittering with gold, fused glass in rich primary colours, paintings, pottery, fresh-water pearls, sea-glass jewellery and hats inspired by the natural world, and the neighbouring tattoo parlour also invites you in for Artweeks with live demos of art transferred to skin!

Along the canal, at Walton Bridge Moorings, Mike England is showing large abstract paintings in his riverside studio, and you’ll find Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging in the St Margaret’s Institute.

Be surprised by Summertown

In Bainton Road, conchologist Ingrid Thomas is inspired by shells, the jewels of the sea, and you’ll be amazed by the variety and colours of shells from every corner of the globe, collected and now encapsulated as natural works of art. Take the Banbury Road North, and be diverted by a striking collection of papier mache animal sculptures in the Farrow and Ball shop, and a detailed map of the Shipping Forecast in the neighbouring Hamptons International office. There’s a glass Wonderland tucked behind Summertown library, playful and vintage art in the Sarah Wiseman Gallery, and a Where’s Wally approach to Oxford’s gargoyles along South Parade as James Milroy hosts his fun art.

Head far afield, in Headington

While photograher Mazz celebrates the textures and tones of New Headington in The Butcher’s Arms, you can travel from the Arctic to the Antarctic behind the lens of Headington’s Ross Mackenzie. With Asian artefacts in still life paintings by Angela Beatson Wood, new to Artweeks for 2016, and South African influences inspiring ceramicist Marieke O’Connor who is exhibiting in St Andrew’s church alongside a number of other artists there’s plenty to see. At St Andrew’s artist & environmental scientist Katharine Harborne, who has studied the painting materials & techniques of the Renaissance masters, is demonstrating their magical painting techniques and showing how they make paint from earth, semi-precious rocks & plants, while furniture maker Ali Young combines carefully-selected sustainable hardwoods with sumptuous finishes to produce his elegant and vibrant pieces of furniture.

Wolvercote, Wytham and the woods

Wolvercote is home to ten artweeks venues including the studio of Janet Cross who creates porcelain vessels that look as if they are crafted from fabric; the garden setting of portrait artist Tom Croft, and a multi-artist venue at 2 Rowland Close. The take the road to the ancient village of Wytham where, in a rustic farmyard setting, artist John Blandy has painted the same stretch of river over a thirty year period, charting the changes on the riverbank through the seasons and the years; before heading deep into Wytham woods to search out a dragon - an eight-metre long kiln that is the basis of a project looking at traditional Japanese firing methods!

Oxfordshire Artweeks runs from May 5-30, starting with Oxford city. For more details of artweeks, go to