Gallery run 16th August

This week I have chosen to go to Oxford. The main galleries are Modern Art Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum and there is also an extensive system of rivers and a canal with which to fashion a great running loop. After jogging to Paddington and enjoying a quick fifty five minute train ride to Oxford I am ready to start. The canal actually runs parallel to the railway and the transfer between the two is straightforward as a cycle path disappearing through a housing estate offers some promise that it may be heading towards the canal or at least to a park in its vicinity. Once on the towpath, the canal edges up north and progress along it is gauged primarily by the bridges. The exit at the fifth bridge leads round to the River Thames in Port Meadow and the return loop to the city commences.

Back in the City, Modern Art Oxford, is staging two exhibitions. A retrospective by Rose Finn Kelcey is the headline show and we quickly become aware that she was a performance artist who expanded her practice in later years to include installation and film. The iconic photo that launched the artist’s career is also on display. It is a picture of her doing a handstand on a beach wearing ballet-type shoes and a fantastic billowing skirt. This garment of clothing has been caught in the wind and looks like some fantastic shell or strange prosthetic at first sight, though on closer inspection we learn it is simply the white pleated skirt. Elsewhere the artist, in this posthumous retrospective, has a recreation of an artwork she made using coins of different metals to depict Van Goch’s sunflowers whilst alluding to its extraordinary multi-million price tag that was its primary feature at the time.

In the adjacent gallery Aleksandra Mir has giant drawings on display depicting satellites and control panels whilst suggesting through the use of symbols the vast quantities of data that might be passed between them. All the drawings have been made with black marker pens and the marks use a variety of saturations of ink to create textures and moods ranging from the precise to the casual. A video of the making of the work is shown in the cafe and it becomes clear that this artwork is a team effort with the helping artists working from style sheets and being assisted with grids.

As the cafe closes I head up to the Ashmolean Museum, slightly concerned that the 5pm closure of the former, might be a portent for an unexpectedly early closure of the latter. Alas this turns out to be true and the giant pair of panelled doors are literally being shut as I arrive. There is no chance then of exploring the Ashmolean collection on this trip and finding some hidden gems by John Ruskin. Instead the experience here takes a different turn as two large stainless steel sculptures by Lynn Chadwick take pride of place in the front courtyard. Light glistens on the polished metal and the blurb describes how the choice of material is very unusual for this particular artist. With these photos completed, there is an hour to spare and the natural destination is the river again but this time walking.

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Oxford Canal leaving the city.

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A ruin in Port Meadow near Oxford.

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Cows by the River Thames in Port Meadow Oxford.

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River Thames by Port Meadow Oxford.

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Rose Finn Kelcey at Modern Art Oxford with a version of Van Gogh’s expensive sunflowers made from coins.

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Aleksandra Mir at Modern Art Oxford.

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Aleksandra Mir at Modern Art Oxford.

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Lynn Chadwick at Ashmolean Museum.

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Lynn Chadwick at Ashmolean Museum.

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