On Saturday 12 May visitors to Iffley Church found the place quietly populated by artists. Wherever one looked, around the churchyard and inside the church, there were people drawing, painting, looking at the building and its surroundings. Even under the shadowy boughs of the ancient yew tree there were artists on stools intensely capturing the sinews of the tree in pencil, charcoal and paint. This was a day put on by Living Stones for amateurs to learn under the guidance of three professional artists. At the end of the day they bravely exhibited their work in the Church Hall and I, for one, would have been proud to hang any of their pieces on my wall at home.
Sally Levell, Daniel McNaboe and Phil Whiting spent the day (and many days beforehand preparing for it) inspiring and teaching the 16 participants. All three are artists with impressive portfolios. Sally has worked with different techniques and methods but focuses on zinc-plate etching, exhibiting regularly with Oxford Printmakers and the Oxford Art Society. Daniel is a painter and draughtsman. He worked for seven years as an assistant to Damien Hirst, but is now working for himself in Oxford. His most engaging drawings depict faded and familiar family scenes. He invites us to ponder the importance of family history and how this can be re-interpreted by a new generation. Phil finds that for him painting the landscape is the best way of evoking and excavating memories or hidden truths. He has held 20 solo exhibitions including shows at The European Parliament in Brussels in 2006 and at New College, Oxford in 2009. All three artists are rooted in Iffley and its church. Daniel grew up here, and Sally and Phil live in the village and are always to be found prowling round, soaking up and inspiring others with the beauty and history of St Mary’s.
Watching from the wings I was struck with the way the artists and their students were completely absorbed in the sessions. The buzz of concentration, pleasure and creative achievement was absolutely palpable. I have a feeling they will be back, on their own or even, perhaps, for another Day with our inspiring artists, energised once more by non-stop tea and cakes provided by Living Stones volunteers, as well as lunches provided by the Iffley Community Shop?