Our pick of this week’s art events: 23 – 30 April

Published 24 April 2015

This week, RA Magazine travels to Oxford to take a look at a cluster of art events opening in the city, from the Ashmolean to the Bodleian Library.

  • Love Bites: Caricatures by James Gillray and Great British Drawings

    Ashmolean, Oxford, until 21 June and 31 August 2015
    Marking the 200th anniversary of the death of the great caricaturist James Gillray, this show provides a snapshot of the political intrigues of the 18th century. The exhibition explores Gillray’s frequently published satires of important figures including the then Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, King George IV and Napoleon, and also includes a superbly funny cartoon of contemporaneous French-English political relations.

    In the adjacent gallery is a much heftier show. Drawn from the astonishing 3,000-strong drawings collection the Ashmolean holds, Great British Drawings tracks the evolution of British draughtsmanship from the sixteenth century to now. The show includes work by past and present Academicians ranging from Joshua Reynolds to Walter Sickert and Tom Phillips, demonstrating where they lie in the broader context of British drawing, alongside masters including Samuel Palmer, David Bomberg, Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson, Gwen John and the still-prolific Frank Auerbach.

  •  James Gillray, First Kiss in Ten Years! or The Meaning of Britannia & Citizen Francois

    James Gillray, First Kiss in Ten Years! or The Meaning of Britannia & Citizen Francois, 1803.

    35.5 x 25.2 cm. Courtesy of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford Bridgeman Images.

  • John Bratby and Jean Cooke: Who is slaving at the Kitchen Sink?

    Pembroke College Art Gallery, Oxford, 30 April – 12 June, open Wednesdays and Fridays 12–2pm
    John Bratby RA and Jean Cooke RA were British ‘kitchen sink’ painters, borne of 1950s realism, depicting everyday people and their ordinary realities. But Cooke and Bratby’s realism was imbued with their tempestuous, often traumatic, married life – Cooke portraying Bratby as ever more monstrous, and Bratby painting Cooke in ever more unflattering ways. Cooke unfortunately suffered more from the relationship, and Bratby became more famous for his work.

    With strong works from Pembroke College’s collection, and key loans from the Royal Academy, this is one of the first exhibitions to place Cooke and Bratby side by side artistically and reappraise Cooke’s valuable painterly legacy. A must see.

  • Jean Cooke RA, Jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris

    Jean Cooke RA, Jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris, 1972.

    Oil on canvas. 45.7 x 45.7 cm. ©Royal Academy of Arts, London; Photographer: John Hammond.

  • Debora Delmar Corp: Upward Mobility

    Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, until 17 May 2015
    Mexican artist Debora Delmar has made an ambitious new site-specific installation across the whole top floor of Modern Art Oxford, a work which surprisingly includes it’s own functioning juice bar. Delmar plays on themes of celebrity culture by using advert-like imagery, pre-made Ikea topiary (signifying the frivolous fakeness of the 1%) and that new emblem of fashion, juice – now the ‘super food’ of the rich and famous. Delmar explores globalized consumer culture with a suitably humourous take, even creating her own trading company, Debora Delmar Corp.

  • Debora Delmar , Green Screen, Luxury Study and John

    Debora Delmar, Green Screen, Luxury Study and John, 2015.

    Modern Art Oxford 2015 © Ben Westoby.

  • Marks of Genius

    Weston Library, Oxford, until 20 September 2015
    This exhibition marks the opening of architects’ Jim Eyre and Chris Wilkinson RA’s masterful design for the Bodleian’s new library. Previously a shell of a building filled from floor to ceiling with shelves of books and not open to the public, the building has been converted by their firm Wilkinson Eyre into a marvellous multifunctional space with playful architectural language.

    The building has several functions, including private sound-proofed space for students, reading rooms, a café and an exhibition space where Marks of Genius is on show. By gum does this exhibition smack you around the face with the world’s most famous printed texts, which range from a 1217 version of the Magna Carta to the Gutenberg Bible, and the first folio edition of Shakespeare’s works to Mendelssohn’s score for Schilflied (Reed Song). With plenty of other blockbusters too, this is quite a show.

  • Jim Eyre and Chris Wilkinson RA, Ascott Park Gateway within the Blackwell Hall

    Jim Eyre and Chris Wilkinson RA, Ascott Park Gateway within the Blackwell Hall.

    Photograph: Ben Bisek for Wilkinson Eyre Architects.

  • Alchemy and the Laboratory

    Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, Oxford, until 7 June 2015
    To celebrate the restoration of a curious painting depicting a 17th century alchemical act (pictured), the Museum for the History of Science has put together a small but perfectly formed display on the history of alchemy, topped with a new commission by artistic collaborators Charles Ogilvie and Vid Simoniti.

    Alchemy and the Laboratory, on show in a room once used as an alchemical furnace, opens a window onto the fraught race the first alchemists embarked on to make gold. Including historic prints and a facsimile of the 1403-4 law passed against trying to make gold, the display ends with Ogilvie and Simoniti’s video work Dreams of Homunculi. Here antique texts and images of scientific vials come together to portray the alchemical concept that man could create a mini-man, or homunculus, from chemicals alone.

  • Unknown , Painting of a Chemical Laboratory, Early 17th Century

    Unknown, Painting of a Chemical Laboratory, Early 17th Century.

    Oil on Canvas, Framed.