Hi Jane! Please introduce yourself and your work to our readers?
I’m a visual artist from Paisley, where I live with my partner Sam and twin daughters. I’ve been a full time artist since 2012, initially working in textiles and more recently developing my painting practice. My art explores, questions and speaks intimately of my connection to the landscape. I’m interested in the interaction between humans and the natural world — how we, individually and as a society, seek to create stability or control within the seemingly unpredictable and unknown forces of nature.
The paintings I make would probably fall into the abstract expressionist genre. But although they are abstract, when I look at them I almost see a map — a record of wanderings, of a sunset, a conversation, of hopes and fears.
How did your career in art begin and how has your practice developed over time?
My parents are both creative, so it’s always been a big part of my life. After a short time at college, it wasn’t until my daughters were 8 or 9 that I began to pursue art seriously. But it was a chance encounter with the owners of the Watermill Gallery in Aberfeldy that led to my first exhibition in 2013. For the first 5 years I used textiles, mainly Harris Tweed, to make topographical and geological maps. The delicately balanced mix of colour and shades in the cloth provided the perfect palette to remake the land in aerial perspective, revealing so much more than the eye can see.
I then began to be drawn to new materials and to consider the narrative in my work more deeply. After a period of experimentation, I found that the medium of paint allows me to produce work with much more spontaneity and expression. The fundamental inspirations remain constant regardless of medium — abstracting line, form and colour from maps or geological diagrams and using them alongside more organic shapes to communicate a story.
Can you talk us through how you find inspiration and bring it onto the canvas?
It begins with me being outside — mostly walking, but sometimes swimming or paddling a kayak. I spend time noticing the shapes and colours, sounds and light, and building relationships with people and places. All of this creates an image in my mind which I then translate to the canvas.
I use inks, fluid paints and water to pour and move colour around, staining the raw canvas with organic, flowing shapes. My paintings are made up of many layers, each needing to dry overnight, which forces a slowness and thoughtfulness in the process. It also means I work on many paintings at a time, so my studio is pretty busy! Expressive marks and patterns come next using a mix of materials. I mark lines of travel, sometimes bold, others cautious, like the movement of the breeze on water. This is how I recall my time in the landscape, each layer, colour or line a remembered experience.
Place and belonging are two themes in your work. How do they influence your art?
My partner and I have spent many years travelling around Scotland, visiting mountains, glens and lochs, and in a way looking for somewhere that we might belong. Although I live in and love Paisley, I don’t feel rooted here. We also found that the places you see in the tourist adverts, while beautiful, are often too busy to connect deeply with. So we started to seek out lesser-known quiet areas as we questioned our opposing desires to both explore and belong. For me, people and community are what make a place and foster a connection. When you find a place you belong, you might not be able to explain why — but that’s just it, it’s a feeling.
Is there a specific place in Scotland you think is particularly special?
Whenever we are planning a trip or I’m looking to explore for more creative inspiration, I almost always head west. I feel it has it all — mountain, glen, coast, loch. There are so many favourite places I could mention. Assynt will always hold a special place in my heart for its spectacular geology and topography, but recently Argyll has stolen the show. Particularly what’s known as Argyll’s Secret Coast, which takes in the Cowal peninsula and the Kyles of Bute. This place has something that keeps pulling me back.
Talking of Argyll, your latest exhibition is at the Tighnabruaich Gallery. Tell us more?
My exhibition this summer — ‘Undertow’ — is at the Tighnabruaich Gallery from 24 July until 12 September. There are 21 paintings, mostly on canvas, plus a display of my sketchbooks and studies. The body of work explores what pulls me to this area of the west coast and how my priorities, in terms of place, have shifted since my first show here in 2018. The paintings explore the peaceful and gentle relationships to reassuring landscapes and to welcoming communities.
Your studio is in Paisley. Can you share more about the town and what we should see there?
Paisley has a rich history in textiles and weaving. Most people will be familiar with the Paisley pattern, which really changed the fortunes of the town. My studio is actually located in one of the former thread mills, a large airy building with bags of character — perfect for creatives!
The town’s been going through a period of regeneration and in recent years made it to the final of UK City of Culture. There’s the stunning abbey, which dates back to 1163, the Coats Observatory, and famous museum and gallery. I like to explore the edges of the town with long walks in the Gleniffer Braes country park — there are breathtaking views across the Clyde Valley to the mountains of the Trossachs.
Where do you think your art might take you next?
I have no idea! I think that’s the best way though — if you plan too rigidly there’s no room for spontaneity and experimentation. Just now I’m enjoying the process of painting and playing with different materials. I need to consciously give myself space to explore, like last year when I did a kind of residency in my own studio. I also usually have two books on the go, some of which have really opened my mind in terms of landscape and place. Anything with Kathleen Jamie’s name on it is a must. Also The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd and The Outrun by Amy Liptrot.
Can you pick out 4 or 5 things in your studio you can’t live without?
1. My electric staple gun. I stretch all my own canvas, so this is essential!
2. A pair of Bluetooth headphones, so I can play my music super loud while I work.
3. A catalyst wedge tool for scraping paint around.
4. Glass jars, because I literally use them for everything.
WHERE CAN WE FIND OUT MORE?