I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for the art lovers among you that didn't make it to the 2016 Oxford International Art Fair at the weekend, I'm afraid you missed a good time. In addition to the general creative buzz that I remember well from last year's fair, there was a sense of ease about Oxford Town Hall on Saturday afternoon, with hundreds of strangers shuffling cheerfully around and striking up conversations left and right as if surrounded by old friends.
Having set aside a solid hour and a half to scour the fair's offerings I ended up staying for at least twice that long, such were the numerous opportunities to chat, along with the quantity and sheer interestingness of the artists and their displayed works. I imagine I will probably end up devoting an individual post to almost every artist listed in this overview, but for now, I hope you'll enjoy a summary of my favourites. So, without any further ado, my stand out portraitists of the 2016 Oxford International Art Fair are:
Thanh Chuong's Self Portrait, 2015 demonstrates the artist's mastery of the unusual medium of lacquer on wood. In style, this painting occurs to me as a sort of Picasso/Dali mash-up which, with the artist's bold use of colour and line, makes for a striking finish.
Mauricio Inclán Herrera
Speaking of striking finishes, Mexican artist Inclán Herrera uses black acrylic with gold leaf to create a stunning sense of contrast in his stylish portraits.
In her own words, Cullens' work aims to challenge the boundary between abstraction and representation, deconstructing portraiture and exploring the potential of paint handling, fragmentation and composition as a subject matter in and of itself.
No visual artist is India currently has more Facebook followers that Hazari and, having viewed a collection of his works at the fair, I can see why. His work aims to expose the extraordinariness of the everyday, and does so using a beautiful combination of psychedelic colours and patterns.
Rodhe's portraits were exactly what I had been hoping to find at this year's O.I.A.F. These large works are not only a technical achievement, but through their layers of meaning contribute to a conversation about women in art that I was (not so) subtly trying to start with several of the artists that I spoke with. The artist herself was not around to talk to me about the series from which the above painting comes (she had popped out for lunch), but two of her assistants gave me some excellent explainations in her absence. Although I won't give too much away here, as I will certainly return to Rodhe's work in more detail at a later date, the gist of this work is that it reflects the pressure that contemporary visual culture places on people (and women in particular) to look and feel a certain way. The figure's clutching hand may be considered an extension of the way in which one tries to press away the wrinkles in one's face upon looking in the mirror after a long day.
Clark is another artist about whose work I will probably write again in another post. He takes inspiration from the Old Masters, as is evidenced by a comparison between Clark's portrait of a girl (above left), and Botticelli's sixteenth-century portrait of (probably) Simonetta Vespucci (above right).
Unfortunately I didn't get to meet John Sparks at the art fair, but I nonetheless spent a happy few minutes staring at Heart it Races, 2016, pictured above. Sparks had a lot wonderful portraits on display, in addition to several other works of varying genre. He hails from Norwich and, by the looks of his tumblr archive, seems to be honing his skills year on year. Certainly one to watch.
Yes, portraits of cats are absolutely still portraits. In addition to being cute and characterful, Hamilton-Cox's portraits are painted on leather, giving them an extra dimension of texture. He imports a special kind of acrylic paint from the United States in order to acheive this effect.
So there you have it, my favourite portraitists from the 2016 Oxford International Art Fair. There are a couple of artists who don't fit into the category of portraiture, so I'll be featuring them in a future post, but until then it's good bye to the O.I.A.F. Is it just me, or is anyone else already excited for next year?
Let me know what you think of the artists/artworks featured here in the comments below.