Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Hundreds follow outdoor art trail in aid of charities

Hundreds follow outdoor art trail in aid of charities

HUNDREDS of people followed the Outdoor Hidden Art Trail in Watlington over the bank holiday weekend.

There were 29 installations throughout the town made by 12 artists. All the pieces were made from recycled materials, including some of the 50,000 ArtWeek catalogues printed for events across Oxfordshire before they were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

ArtWeek was due to take place at 35 venues in Watlington in May so organisers still wanted to stage an event for the community.

The trail, which had a theme of Spheres, was inspired by the world’s challenges of climate change and covid-19.

Local artists, led by Jaine McCormack, Andrea Brewer and Jules Bishop, came together with others to create outdoor pieces made from waste plastic, old CDs, rusted metal and items found in the countryside, as well as the catalogues. The aim was to demonstrate that art can be created from anything.

Mrs Brewer said: “The idea was inspired by the land art of Chris Drury, whose work has included making spheres from natural materials and photographing them in the landscape.

“I thought the spherical form for our trail pieces, apart from being visually pleasing, was a good way to represent both the virus and our planet, which is so under threat by climate change and unsustainability.

“As the work needed to be weather-proof and not intrinsically valuable, we decided to make them out of found, recycled and waste materials. What a good way to make creative use of all the additional waste produced during lockdown.

“I hope people found this project and event a fun and creative distraction to help get through these challenging times.” There was also an exhibition at St Leonard’s Church called Back to our Roots, led by painter Frances Ackland-Snow.

Artists were encouraged to produce miniatures of the work they would have displayed during ArtWeek. These were photographed weekly and set among the roots of a beech tree in a secret location.

The exhibition featured a total of 137 miniatures made by 45 artists. All the pieces were donated by the artists for sale in support of the Prince’s Trust and the Riverside Counselling Service in Henley.

The culmination was a video recording of the pieces with a fairy story called The Little Girl With No Voice, which was read by actor Jeremy Irons, who lives in the town. An accompanying piece of poetry by Mary Oliver was recited by his wife, actress Sinead Cusack.

The fairy tale was written by Mrs Ackland-Snow and the short film was directed and produced by resident Nicola Schafer. The film provided a backdrop to the exhibition, along with audio recordings made in interviews with some of the artists.

Mrs McCormack said: “Although ArtWeek was cancelled, our artists were able to stay connected during lockdown and we wanted to say ‘thank you’ to the community.

“It was brilliant, beyond all expectations. We photocopied 500 trail maps and had only 24 left.

“What we have been calling it is ‘Artweeks evolved’. In some ways it’s even better because it has brought the community aspect into play.

“We hope that residents enjoyed discovering some amusing pieces of art around the town as well as buying a piece of miniature art for a good cause. We are looking forward to starting to plan an evolved ArtWeek for 2021.”

The trail and exhibition has so far raised more than £3,000.

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