Freeborn Gallery

The Freeborn Gallery exhibits the work of renowned artists and creates opportunities for our students to work with them. The whole school community benefits from the vibrant ethos created through this commitment to the visual and creative arts.


Seeds Sown

Freeborn Seeds Sown Exhibit  2018

‘Seeds Sown’ an exhibition by Ron Freeborn’s students

 For Ron Freeborn, Head of Art at DGS for 30 years and namesake of this gallery, art teaching is not just a profession, but a way of life that has endured well into retirement. Ron teaches weekly painting classes to 57 students at three different venues including Blewbury, Brightwell Baldwin and Sunningwell School of Art. The students vary in age and background and range from a Year 13 Didcot Girls’ School student to a 90 year old. There is even an Antiques Roadshow presenter in their company! Ron has led many memorable painting trips to Venice and has enriched the lives of so many different people in so many parts of Oxfordshire. The members of the three groups haven’t met before and are being brought together for the first time by this exhibition. Ron intends this show to be a reflection of who he is teaching at the present time after a long and varied career in art teaching. He says there is ‘no house style’ but that he encourages the students to ‘paint like themselves’. Ron offers advice on composition, colour and design, but allows the individual to pursue his or her own direction and style. As an experienced art teacher, he understands the complexity of the creative mind and is sensitive to the risks taken by students when trying to express themselves artistically. His nurturing approach ensures that he creates a safe environment where every student can thrive and find a unique creative voice which comes from deep within the individual and is not just an echo of the teacher.

Ron’s commitment to painting and to teaching is as vital as ever and the infectious enthusiasm he continues to bring to art is apparent in this life affirming exhibition. Picasso said that ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.’ It appears that Ron has resolved this problem.

An Evening with Wendy Botto - Wednesday 10th October

Wendy Botto Sept Oct 2018

During September and October we very much enjoyed hosting Wendy Botto and her work for her second spell as our 'Artist in Residence'. We are hugely appreciative of all the time that Wendy has spent in school, putting art at the heart of the school (literally and figuratively!), working with students and inspiring us all on a daily basis. 

An exhibition of sculpture by Alison Berman

Alison Berman   Public invite, 2018

12 twitter 03 07 Collection Twitter 1Alison Berman is a sculptor who finds beauty and humour in the unexpected. She works with a wide variety of materials, from paper and clay to reclaimed exhaust pipes. Her work ranges in scale from an 8 foot high fountain to dolls house scenes. There’s often an element of metamorphosis or word play in her sculpture. We are already fortunate to have many Berman sculptures around the school – the family of deer in Frideswide Quad, disembodied dancing dresses and huge white wedding flowers….

‘Working with my hands is fundamental to who I am. I use a wide range of materials for my sculpture including clay, found objects, papier-mâché, plaster, fibre glass and resin and work on different scales according to the project. Colour and texture play an important part and occasionally there is a magical transformation along the way. I enjoy using found or functional objects in suggestive ways so that they become something more than they first appear, bringing together the unexpected in dissonant and resonant combinations.

04 Family 04 Central to my work is a connection to all things quirky or bizarre: something fun with which the viewer can easily engage.  There are often jokes inherent in what I make. Humour and visual puns are important in my work, however, often there is a more serious message in the double entendre of the sculpture and its title.

The two essential spirits running through my work are a sense of mischief and the dynamic between sculpture and viewer.  How people respond and react - whether with curiosity, amusement, puzzlement or simply getting the joke - is part of the life of my sculptures. Indeed reaction and encouragement are vital elements of my artistic practice.’ Alison Berman


Life of the Line

Private view

Life of the Line is the result of life classes taught by one of last term’s exhibitors, Charlotte Houlihan. Charlotte has been hugely impressed with all the Year 12 Graphic Design and Fine Art students who have participated in the classes. The students have embraced a series of challenging exercises, some of which were substantially outside of their comfort zone, with fantastic results! It has been a rewarding process seeing their confidence and skill develop, and the inspiring work produced over the course of just six sessions is a testament to the effort they have all put in. Charlotte has particularly enjoyed seeing the students excel at different exercises and mediums, overcoming their own hurdles and really beginning to develop their own unique style. She feels that a professional exhibition of their work in the Freeborn Gallery is a wonderful finale to their drawing course, not least because they have been instrumental in curating and preparing the show, from designing the private view invitations to framing the work in the gallery. 

Over the course of six weeks the students have engaged in a series of demanding exercises, designed to free them up, be honest about what they see, and, ultimately, arm them with a number of methods for tackling observational drawing. From blind drawing (not looking at your paper) to negative spaces, they have experimented with ink, wash, chalk, conté and charcoal. The students were asked to draw with chalk on sticks to force them to step back from their work. They also learned measured drawing by correcting each others' work. They have been encouraged to work rapidly, have tackled a moving pose and had to find the model amongst a jumble of furniture and easels. Each week, the group was given an exercise, but the critique has been individually focused, with no ‘right’, 'wrong’ or ‘expected’ outcome, but rather a goal of individual development - something they have all achieved. These students should be very proud of what they have created in such a short space of time.



Textiles, painting and life drawing by DGS alumni Charlotte Houlihan (life drawing & painting), Yvette Phillips (textiles & embroidery), Eleanor Wong (painting)

Following a hugely successful Artweeks exhibition in May 2017, this trio of Blewbury artists will be exhibiting together again as part of the Artweeks Christmas Season at The Freeborn Gallery at Didcot Girls’ School. Charlotte, Yvette, and Eleanor are all alumni of the school and were taught by the gallery’s namesake, Ron Freeborn, making it a fitting venue for what promises to be a colourful exhibition of textile collages, painting and life drawing. As well as showcasing their own work, Yvette, Eleanor and Charlotte are looking forward to working with the students at DGS and helping to inspire a new generation of successful artists.

Freeborn flamingo


CHARLOTTE HOULIHAN – Charlotte has been life drawing and painting for over ten years. After graduating with a BA in Furniture and Product design, she enjoyed a career in design. Art however, has always been at the heart of her work and she has built up quite a collection over the years. Charlotte’s work is a collection of honest and thoughtful life studies. She works spontaneously from the model using the paints to find the figure in a loose and reflective way. She paints with oils, often on paper and more recently on canvas too. Her paintings are immediate - she never sketches them out first, but prefers to go straight in with paint, moving the figure around on the canvas as she goes. Most of her paintings are created in an hour sitting, while her drawings in inks are usually no more than ten or 15 minutes. She finds working quickly encourages her to make honest decisions and she rarely returns to a piece once the initial pose is over. Because of this she produces quite a bit, much of which never sees the light of day again, but still contributes something to the pieces you see.

t: 07787 990716

YVETTE PHILLIPS – Yvette specialised in print making for her degree, then went on to work in a creative product management role in the music industry.  After having children and moving back to her home village of Blewbury, she resurrected her lifelong love of sewing, and started working with vintage fabrics, making high quality soft furnishings. This in in turn led her back to creating art, and she now works from her home studio in Blewbury, making textile art to commission and for exhibition. Her work is based on collage techniques; cutting, piecing together, layering, and stitching together vintage fabrics to create images that are rich in texture and colour. Her work represents a fusion of vintage fabrics with contemporary methods, such as free-motion machine embroidery, to create striking pieces that are original and refreshing, and at the same time imbued with a sense of nostalgia.  Her collages are nearly always inspired by a particular piece of fabric that she is drawn to.  Each piece starts with loose drawings, but these are not always adhered to, and Yvette remains open-minded throughout the making process, moving around and adding pieces along the way.


t: 07880 700231

ELEANOR WONG – Eleanor's art explores the free-thinking nature of childhood, and the loose and beautiful ways of seeing and imagining the world.  Avoiding grownup rules, with no fixed realities, the art is an expression of serendipitous moments of freedom that spark happy childhood feelings, and bring back those playful moments and memories. Eleanor's work is rooted directly in the thoughts, drawings and imagination of her own children, it is a reminder to stay young at heart. She works to find a balance between staying true to these inspirations and decorating each piece of art with her own ideas of beauty.


t: 07939 231066


The exhibition will be an opportunity to view and purchase new work by all three artists, along with limited edition giclée prints, and vintage fabric cushions, bags, and other unique gifts, in perfect time for Christmas.

Richard Rodrigues: Exhibition and Artist in Residence in the Freeborn Gallery

Monday 11th September - Wednesday 18th October
pen to Public 9.30am-2.30pm Daily Term Time
Private view Wednesday 11th October 6.30pm
Richard Rodrigues poster front

'The work exhibited falls into two well defined styles and time periods:1990 – 1997 (Geometric) and 1997 – 2017 (Organic).

Throughout the first period I was a Head of Art, teaching in the London Borough of Hillingdon. One of the projects undertaken by my GCSE students was entitled “Townscapes”. We spent a day in Uxbridge town centre looking at the different styles of architecture and, in particular, the effects of modern high rise glass structures on the landscape.

The resulting work reflects my personal response to this project. I worked in a linear way, following a logical sequence of ideas through a series of preparatory drawing, photographs and notes, before embarking on a final more personal composition.

All these pieces of work are geometric and tightly structured with some degree of expression in the use of colour. With teaching, family and travelling commitments, time was a precious commodity and consequently there was little room for experimentation or error during the creative process.

Taking early retirement in 1997 proved to be the catalyst to working in a less structured and geometric way and a more fluid, experimental and expressive style developed. Time was no longer an issue and the tensions and workload of teaching were lifted. The outcome of this change was a series of works that were more flexible, organic and far less predictable.

My interest in literature, music and travel is reflected throughout the work on display, and is usually the starting point. I have dispensed with preparatory studies and now work directly on the final piece.  Ideas are organised in my head and are sometimes consolidated months after the initial stimulus and are, therefore, quite divorced from a real situation, particularly as memories can be somewhat unreliable.  My use of deconstruction, fragmentation and re –organisation of imagery keeps the creative process fresh and innovative.

As a student I was greatly influenced by the American Chromatic Abstractionalists, Barnett- Newman and Mark Rothko. Colour is, therefore, hugely important and underpins everything I produce. It is often the starting point prior to embarking on a series of ideas.'

“Returning to painting after another 10 year gap” by Wendy Botto

Exhibition & Artist in Residence in the Freeborn Gallery

Monday 24th April -Thursday 25th May 2017
Open to Public 9.30am-2.30pm Daily Term Time
Private View Wednesday 26th April 7.00pm

The Freeborn Gallery is proud to be staging an exhibition by DGS alumni Wendy Botto (nee Sanderson):

I am a former student of DGS from long ago - I was born in Didcot in 1963. I was lucky enough to have Ron Freeborn as my Art teacher at DGS, and adored the subject throughout my school career. I went on to do a one-year Foundation course at Banbury, and it was there that I first learnt about a limited palette and dropped the use of black. I went on to specialise in painting and completed a BA in Fine Art at Portsmouth Polytechnic.

Subsequently I worked in graphic design for various printing companies in London, Swindon and Didcot, and my painting was replaced by logo design and computer skills. However, I always drew when possible and never used clip art! After a 10 year gap I returned to painting, and once again met Ron Freeborn. I joined Blewbury Art Group and had local exhibitions. My work started to sell and I also held workshops around Oxfordshire, including some outdoor workshops at Sunningwell School of Art. At this point my main medium was oil.  After the birth of my daughter, I turned to acrylics simply because juggling pushchairs, dogs and wet oil canvases was not an easy feat!  I had to surrender my studio when she was two because she had outgrown our small bedroom. I painted when I could, but started helping out at various toddler groups and preschools, working on individual and group art projects with toddlers, and became fascinated with Child Art. I went on to obtain a Higher Pre-school Diploma in Childcare as I was so interested in how children learn and interpret the world.

Sadly, with lack of studio space and other hobbies such as teaching dog agility becoming increasingly important in my life, I have done very little painting for the last 10 years. However, I have continued to keep an active interest in Art and have enjoyed watching my daughter’s artistic education at DGS. I am thrilled at the prospect of both an exhibition and an Artist in Residency in the Freeborn Gallery. What better place to return to painting after 10 years than the very place that inspired my love of Art.

Wendy Botto

Jeff Clarke - Paintings, Drawings and Prints

Jeff Clarke has had a long and distinguished career as an artist. He studied at the Brighton School of Art from 1952-1956 where his particular focus was wood engraving and then etching, before winning travel awards and scholarships which took him to France and Italy. Inspired to paint and draw by the towns and architecture he encountered on this travels, he returned to Oxford in 1960 to take up a part time teaching post at the Oxford School of Art, now part of Oxford Brookes. From 1964-1973 he had 5 one-man shows of paintings at the legendary Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford.

It was his developing friendship with the prominent British artist Terry Frost, then teaching at Reading University, that led Jeff to return to print making and to his post as visiting tutor at Reading. This collaborative friendship resulted in a period of Abstraction in his work which was showcased in an exhibition of etchings at the Oxford Museum of Modern Art and at Kettles Yard in Cambridge.

From 1979-80 Jeff was appointed as draughtsman to the British School of Archaeology in Athens where he was inspired afresh by the light of the Mediterranean and by ancient pots. Back in the open air, he was able to work directly from the streets and everyday objects around him and to experiment with chiaroscuro, the interplay between light and shade.

Recent years have seen Jeff continue to draw artistically from the ‘stuff’ of everyday life back in his East Oxford home and studio. His work is shown regularly at the Christchurch Picture Gallery and Art Jericho. From 1996-1999 he was a visiting tutor at the Royal Academy Schools in London, during which period he was elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.

A Life in Art 

A celebration of the work of Ron Freeborn, artist, teacher, director.

The Freeborn Gallery is delighted to be hosting an exhibition to mark the 80th birthday of much loved Didcot Girls' School teacher, Ron Freeborn. Ron taught at the school from 1967-1994, during which time he saw the school change from grammar school to comprehensive. Not only did he lead a vibrant art department, where countless generations of girls were inspired and nurtured artistically, he also played a leading role in the school's theatrical and musical life and is still remembered for his direction of 'The Crucible' amongst other memorable productions. Out of school, Ron was a leading light of the legendary Blewbury Players and in 1981 Central TV made a documentary of his ground breaking production of 'The Snow Queen'. This ambitious project included a specially commissioned musical score and involved the whole village in its staging. Watching the film today, the viewer is given a charming insight into English village life. In 1983 Ron was seconded to Modern Art Oxford for a year where his experience in arts education was considered vital in the establishment of this very new and now internationally renowned Oxford museum. 

Ron has lived his life at the heart of things- from artist to art teacher and mentor, to director and set and costumedesigner... He is the kind of teacher that everybody wishes they had been taught by – if they weren't lucky enough to be one of his pupils! This retrospective exhibition strives to pay tribute to his work and to Ron himself. 

You are invited to the private view of 'Local Landmarks; an Experiment with Styles' on Wednesday 6th July from 6:30pm. This exhibition of original prints by Simon East will also feature linocut prints by Didcot Girls' School pupils.

Local artist Simon East and Year 9 pupils come together with a common aim to celebrate local landmarks that are a part of our lives - that have touched and moved us. Working with Simon through a series of printmaking workshops, the girls bring their own interpretations and artistic styles to a series of such local landmarks, in the hope that you will see them anew - and that they will move you too.

The exhibition will be open to view from 9:30am to 2:30pm Monday to Friday from 7th until 20th July.

Please join us for the private view of our next exciting exhibition in the Freeborn Gallery on Wednesday 18th May.

HOPES & DREAMS - Statements of Intent Explored

An exhibition of works by members of Letter Exchange

May 19th-June 23rd 2016
Open Monday-Friday 9.30pm-2.30pm
(Closed May 27th-June 6th, June 13th)

A manifesto is a public declaration of intent: an opportunity to put into words hopes, dreams, a vision or plans. It is a way to influence and inspire others. Whether political, artistic, religious or personal, manifestos have been the source of some of the most influential and challenging concepts in history.

Letter Exchange is a society of some of the most talented lettering artists in the country. These practitioners of contemporary fine lettering aspire to produce new and challenging work, experimenting with materials and techniques to deliver thoughts and ideas in a memorable and striking way. For this national touring exhibition, Letter Exchange invited its members to submit works based on the theme of manifestos. The broad brief of ‘Hopes & Dreams-statements of intent explored’ allowed artists to explore a rich and diverse seam of texts to discover phrases and passages that resonated with them as individuals or inspired them to create their own manifestos.

Didcot Girls’ School is a school with a strong vision: a community with values and beliefs held close to its collective heart. The Freeborn Gallery has mounted this exhibition with the hope that it will inspire and stimulate discussion about what is important to the school and to each individual. Pupils and staff have been invited to submit their own manifestos which will be realised artistically by art students and displayed in the school.

Amanda Jewell

The Freeborn Gallery is delighted to announce its Spring 2016 exhibition, ‘Dance and the Woman’ by Lin Kerr. The exhibition, which opens on February 24th and runs until the end of April, is made up of a series of calligraphic paintings and illustrations and is accompanied by verse by local poet, Christopher Ellott. Lin Kerr, an artist, calligrapher and teacher, has worked with DGS pupils of all ages and  academic disciplines in an exciting collaborative project which will be showcased at the show’s opening on Wednesday February 24th 6.30-8pm. You are all warmly invited to attend this event where drawings by students created during a workshop run by Lin will hang alongside the artist’s work. There will be a performance of dance pieces choreographed by Year 9 and 10 pupils in response to Lin’s paintings and readings of poetry written by the Creative Writing Group. Musical entertainment will be provided by soloists from the Music Department.

This richly collaborative venture promises to generate an inspiring and rewarding evening. As ever, the Freeborn Gallery aims to bring high quality professional art into the school environment as a stimulus for thought, imagination and creativity across the curriculum. In a school for girls like DGS, the themes raised and explored by this project have particular relevance and resonance.

Amanda Jewell

‘A Song for David Redfern’ by Edu Hawkins - September 2015

'A Song for David Redfern' by Edu Hawkins was a photographic tribute to one of the legends of music photography, David Redfern. Redfern photographed the most famous musicians in the world, from The Beatles to Louis Armstrong, and was an inspiration for generations of young photographers. Edu Hawkins has worked and exhibited with the late David Redfern and is represented by Redferns, the music picture specialists of Getty Images. Hawkins has photographed legendary jazz and blues artists, as well as popular artists such as The Manic Street Preachers, Elton John and Blondie. He has exhibited at the South Bank Centre in London and The Sage at Gateshead.

DGS art students and musicians took part in a photography workshop run by Edu in conjunction with his exhibition, based on the theme ‘A Sense of Place’.

‘Printscapes’ by Catriona Brodribb - July 2015

The inaugural exhibition at The Freeborn Gallery was by distinguished Oxford Printmaker, Catriona Brodribb. Her exhibition ‘Printscapes’ explored and celebrated the ancient and industrial landscape around Didcot and South Oxfordshire. Cat ran drypoint etching workshops in connection with her show for a group of Gifted and Talented art students. Alongside Cat’s work, Didcot Sixth Form College students exhibited their own A level Art & Graphics work.

Didcot Girls’ School was delighted to celebrate the opening of The Freeborn Gallery on Thursday 2nd July 2015. The evening was attended by approximately 100 guests, who gathered to enjoy a wonderful evening of art and to meet Ron Freeborn, the gallery’s namesake.

This newly created exhibition space will host an annual programme of art exhibitions by professional artists from all over the county. The gallery will be organised and run by Amanda Jewell who has volunteered to be curator. Amanda is also curator of the well known Sewell Gallery at Radley College. Apart from promoting the work of local artists, this will give pupils the opportunity to enjoy and engage with high calibre art on a daily basis. Furthermore, each exhibition will be used as the basis for workshops for the school’s art students.

The gallery was officially opened by Ron Freeborn, who was Head of Art for 30 years at the school. Born and bred in Didcot, Ron taught and inspired countless generations of girls and is held in great affection by the school to this day. He is still a practising artist and teacher and has his work in collections in 5 continents, as well as in the Government Art Collection. A passionate believer in the power of art to transform, nurture, stimulate and provoke thought, Ron put the subject at the heart of the school and it has stayed there ever since.

Clinical studies in response to the well established ‘Paintings in Hospitals’ organisation reveal the highly positive benefits of displaying art in healthcare environments and confirm that art plays an important role in the healing process. Similarly, the Art Department at Didcot Girls’ School, believe in the power of art to transform a space, promote well-being and provoke thought and discussion. We hope that this exhibition space will be bring together and engage students of all academic disciplines and ages.

Amanda Jewell
Curator of the Freeborn Gallery

Martin Ray
Teacher of Art & Graphics

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