YORK has been transformed into a giant art gallery for the weekend, with the return of York Open Studios.

Throughout this weekend and next, more than 150 artists are showing off their work in studios and homes across the city.

The wealth of work on display includes traditional and contemporary painting and print, drawing, ceramics, glass and sculpture, jewellery, textiles, mixed media and photography.

Among those showing off her work at a studio in the South Bank area today was ceramicist and stained glass artist Veronica Ongaro.

York Press: Victoria Ongaro with a selection of her ceramic wareVictoria Ongaro with a selection of her ceramic ware (Image: Stephen Lewis)

A biologist by training, Veronica’s work is inspired by the structures found in nature – including tiny microscopic plants known as diatoms.

These single-celled algae can grow in colonies – and many of Veronica’s unique stained glass pieces show shapes inspired by the tiny creatures.

“My theme is all botanical and nature inspired,” she said. “Diatoms are unicellular algae. They have a kind of ‘glass’ outside, and they are beautiful.

York Press: One of Veronica Ongaro's stained glass artworks inspired by microscopic diatomsOne of Veronica Ongaro's stained glass artworks inspired by microscopic diatoms (Image: York Open Studios)

“They are microscopic. The only way that you can see them is under the microscope.

“I used to see them under the microscope, so I bring them to the world in a magnified way so you can see these creatures.”

Veronica said Open Studios was a ‘fantastic event’.

“We have more than 150 artists this year. And having the opportunity to meet people – this is a two-way interchange with people.

“I learn a lot from visitors, and visitors learn how things are made.”

Veronica is sharing a studio with fellow York artist Meredith Andrea, whose work is also inspired by nature - although in her case, it’s the allotment where she spends a lot of her time.

York Press: Meredith AndreaMeredith Andrea (Image: Stephen Lewis)

“That’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from!” she said.

Meredith works in watercolour, woodcut, linocut, collagraph, acrylic and ‘jelly-painting’, often mixing media.

She’s done York Open studios twice before – and agrees with Veronica that it is hugely important.

It is vital that people get to see artwork, she says.

“It is like an equation. People see it, and respond to it, and that becomes part of it. It is a process where the viewer is as important as the maker!”

York Press: Detail from one of Meredith Andrea's allotment-inspired artworksDetail from one of Meredith Andrea's allotment-inspired artworks (Image: Stephen Lewis)

Just around the corner from Meredith and Veronica’s studio in Queen Victoria Street is the Brunswick Street studio of fellow York artist Lincoln Lightfoot – venue no 35 in this year’s Open Studios.

Lincoln’s paintings and drawings are inspired by monster movies – King Kong, Godzilla and the like – but with a humorous twist.

They often show large creatures destroying well-known local landmarks: a giant sloth looms behind Micklegate Bar, King Kong crouches high on a tower of York Minster; a tyrannosaurus rex rampages down Shambles.

York Press: One of Lincoln Lightfoot's artworks showing a tyrannosaur rampaging down ShamblesOne of Lincoln Lightfoot's artworks showing a tyrannosaur rampaging down Shambles (Image: York Open Studios)

Lincoln, a former art teacher who trained at York St John University and now lives and works in York, said he was inspired by post-war B-Movie posters.

He loves the shock of seeing some of these giant creatures transposed onto a familiar York landscape.

His work often has a comical twist – such as the huge giant sloth looming ominously behind Bootham Bar.

He loves the fact that sloths are not sinister at all.

York Press: Lincoln Lightfoot with his [painting of tyrannosaurs devouring the Angel of the NorthLincoln Lightfoot with his [painting of tyrannosaurs devouring the Angel of the North (Image: Stephen Lewis)

“It’s that comical aspect. What’s the most harmless creature you could think of? A sloth.

“But if they were giant, they could potentially be quite sinister.”

That is heightened when they are placed against a familiar landmark, he says.


- Lincoln Lightfoot talks about his work

- Veronica Ongaro talks about the botanical inspiration for her art

“It’s a bit like seeing somewhere you know on TV or in a movie. It’s a recognisable location and you go ‘Oh, I’ve been there!’. It has that personal impact to it, as well!”

This is his third time of doing Open Studios – and it’s the reaction of people that makes it worthwhile, he said.

York Press: Lincoln Lightfoot's painting of King Kong at York MinsterLincoln Lightfoot's painting of King Kong at York Minster (Image: Stephen Lewis)

“It makes it such a rewarding thing, especially with the topic of my work. I just love seeing people’s reactions.”

York Open Studios runs from 10am-5pm today and tomorrow, and then again next weekend at more than 100 studios and venues across York and in some surrounding villages.

You can see an interactive Open Studios map at https://yorkopenstudios.co.uk/map/