Interview: Jane Walker
Luca Curci talks with Jane Walker during FUTURE LANDSCAPES, third appointment of BORDERS Art Fair 2020, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
“I make 2-dimensional work with lines. The images I make are of cities, I draw and re-draw cities. The cities are often viewed from a high viewpoint or are on a hillside. I am interested in seeing the patterns humans make on the planet from different distances. I change the scale of buildings. I am interested in how far these patterns reach in time and space. Do human structures have any effect on nature, on animals, the weather and climate? Does the human pattern of building have any impact on the past or the future? Composition for me is a mathematical presence in the arrangement of the lines. The speed and tension in the lines picks up on music, sounds and vibrations. I am trying to remove weight and density from my work aiming at more of a suspended city. I often draw cities upside down with the smallest buildings at the bottom to think of the reduced amount of space we have on the ground. By varying the lines as much as possible I am trying to extend the essentially traditional practice of painting”.
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
Jane Walker – I am currently working on reviewing the art I have made over the last 4 years, trying to take a step back. I have been constantly changing the handwriting in my work. So I am looking out for what works best and what is constant. I aim to create my own language that responds to the patterns of human habitation, seen in cities. I prefer the lines I drew with a pencil that were then traced over – this is how I made lines 2 years ago – to the recent lines scratched through thick paint. Someone suggested to me that I scratch lines through paint so I worked with this in a wide range of experiments. Scraping lines makes the lines direct, at a fast speed and emotional like a sketch made outside. I added horizontal lines to slow down the curved and vertical lines. With this I realized that the scratched lines were not right for me. They make painting too much of a performance and so does thick paint. Tracing lines I have already drawn feels more right for me. It allows me to think about the image. I always draw city buildings thinking about spaces people inhabit and all the invisible connections that form the city.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
JW – My background goes back to painting outside and looking at the responses I make to landscape. I still paint outside almost every day I enjoy it. My studies in art started with a degree I did at Sheffield City Polytechnic in Fine Art, Painting. The staff were supportive but the energy and style in my work came from me it was a time of great freedom. There were angry political women at Sheffield Art College when I was there, this was something I could identify with. There were the miners strikes and much hardship for the miners families, women from Greenham Common protesting against the American nuclear base and then there was a student from Northern Ireland. The post graduate diploma I did after this was much more academic I was taught academic classical art. I think it is this split that has lead to my work diverging it comes from my training. I always start from a very different position.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
JW – I find my inspiration in many different things today. I like the feeling that I am seeing something new so I often think about something until I realize why I am thinking about it, what is behind it. At the beginning of lockdown I read a biography of Virginia Woolf – it was so well written I enjoyed reading it in depth and not hurrying. It made me think of my early formation and how that influenced me today. My first work as an art student was painting outside. I looked at Constable and pondered the difference between the exciting outdoor study paintings that are so highly prized today and his big gallery paintings. I am trying to resolve this dichotomy; has something been lost when we rely on memory? Drawing things directly interests me because it can sense things that are not intentionally drawn. The lines pick up on unseen presences. That is why I continue starting from the outside world and not generating everything within myself. My concentration on lines is to reduce the number of things I am dealing with. My inspiration comes from cities because I like geometrical shapes seen in cities. I look at cities from different distances because I try to look for the geology and landscape underneath or before the city was built. This is often underneath the network of lines. I cling to cities because of their human presence but part of me would opt for pure science, looking at the planet and atmosphere.
LC – Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
JW – In the past, visitors’ suggestions have enriched me. The exhibiting of work is always important, it is part of the process of making art; art comes to a stand still if there is no audience to create a dialogue with. My exhibiting has been fairly open and the conversations have been extremely varied people from all walks of life are welcome. Right now I am beginning to want to really focus my work, so I am looking for what people can read in my lines. My work has been trying out too many different paths, now I am trying to stick to one. Visitor’s responses are still welcome, but I do not want them telling me what to do. Responses add new meanings to art this is very affirmative. Dialogue is often lacking, for me it is central to any artwork. I welcome any new perspectives and visitors’ suggestions in this sense. I really want to know how people react to my work.
LC – Which art themes do you pursue? What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
JW – The main art themes I pursue are the line and the city. The line was initially tracing the edges of buildings but then I found that I can draw cities without following the actual outlines and fewer lines can be more effective. Some of the city gets washed out – lines are absent, presence and absence are another theme. The movement in the horizontal lines wipes out some structures, this is a different way of erasing things. Another theme in my work is space in art, I look at how space has changed and how it is now going back to a sense of space similar to that in medieval painting. There are other artists who deal with the city as their subject matter and I am interested to see their work and understand their thinking.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition? How is it connected to the theme of the entire festival?
JW – The message behind my work is, I think, that I am trying to place man and his structures in nature. What impact will man and his buildings have on nature, the climate, the weather, outer space? By looking at the general patterns of man’s cities I am drawing around the spaces we live in and thinking of the flow and movement. How can things change? Borders seem to be a human concept, defining and separating things out. They are problematic. In my work I think about stillness and movement across borders. In the two pictures I have in the exhibition the cities are upside down, the biggest buildings are at the top. It is not easy to see this, but the cities are suspended, hanging in space. The buildings at the bottom are getting smaller till they dissolve into dust.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
JW – The theme of the entire festival, and particularly Future Landscapes, lends strength to my work because it is talking about the same ideas. Ideas I have been thinking about for a long time. My lines are the edges of things; the borders. I do agree with your vision of art, because it is open. Open to anyone, so there are no nationality barriers. I also feel it is not too competitive, I do not like a lot of the high profile competitions because I find competition is a destructive attitude for me. I like art that comes from somewhere else. Art that had to be made by the artist. I do not know what the visitor figures are for the exhibition this year, but regular exhibiting is important for an artist to progress.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
JW – The organization of the event is good. I applied late, near the deadline, and received a quick reply. I had been undecided partly because I did not know the financial cost. The organizers have been tolerant with me as I am not the best computer person and sometimes I am not communicative.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
JW – ITSLIQUID represents an opportunity for artists, for me it has. ITSLIQUID needs to remain close to artists to know what artists need from opportunities. Artists tend to go where society needs them, where there is a point of tension or a crisis, like the pandemic now.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
JW – My idea of ITSLIQUID GROUP is that the themes chosen are important and topical but they are not dealt with them in a too fashionable manner. I like the clarity of presentation and the international, even global opening out of the discussion. Because with art, when you put the artists together, the generation of new meanings is unpredictable, and often happens well after the event. Unfortunately, this year it has not been possible to travel, to see the exhibition as I would have liked to, and to see the performances and meet people.