An interview with Jane Bottery – Artist of the Month

Written by Forge

On January 11, 2020

Forge Artist Jane Bottery is Artist of the Month for January and we delve deeper into the ideas and influences behind her work here;

The Water and the Earth, oil on canvas

How would you describe your current practice?  

I make abstract, minimal works in a variety of media – oil, pastel, plaster, print – where the original inspiration has been subtracted to its essence. The inspiration for the work can originate in a landscape, an urban setting, an interior or can be an experience or sensation. The themes, approach and key questions I attempt to answer are concerned with observations of shape, space and light, with adding and removing, and to do with reduction. I apply, remove, and reapply layers of media until I have built up a patina which has a sense of light and depth as well as a quality of mark- making which interests me. My ultimate aim is to create work which has a delicate, meditative quality.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently at a point of consolidation and reflection after taking part in exhibitions during 2019 which have expanded and developed my practice. I have various series of works ongoing – minimal landscapes in oils, an installation series of plaster and watercolour cubes, and mixed media works which have responded to the themes of water. – and I will continue to work on these over the coming months. In addition, I currently have two works in the touring Mini Print exhibition. So far these have been shown in Aldeburgh and Woodbridge with plans to be in Norwich and Cambridge this year.

Riverlights, watercolour, plaster and River Mimram water

What are your plans for the coming year?

I am creating a new series of work for the ‘In our Garden’ exhibition in April at the New Maynard Gallery, a group show by Digswell Artists from the Forge to celebrate the centenary of the founding of Welwyn Garden City.In conjunction with Phillipa Brown, Digswell Trustee, I have been developing a proposal to create a ‘Quiet Space’. The idea is to provide a calming meditative drop-in space in a conducive environment, with artworks that encourage a sense of rest and respite. An initial approach has been made to the Quaker Meeting House in Hertford. In addition, I also have plans in preparation for a group exhibition at The Crypt Gallery in Marylebone, London.

One of the 100 Seasons series, oil pastel on paper

What is the question you get asked most about your work and how do you answer it?

I generally get asked about the materials I use and how I make my work but equally interesting is the response to my practice -people often comment that my work is calming and that they find some peace when looking at the it. As this has increasingly become an outcome I am aiming for, as my practice has developed, this has given me a wonderful sense of hope that I am pursuing something worthwhile.

Wait, oil on canvas

Who or what inspired you to be an artist and why?

There were artists in my family, growing up, so it was part of the landscape in a way, considered a normal activity and it was the subject, along with Geography, that I most enjoyed at school. I think it was just something that was always there, as something I wanted and enjoyed doing. I’ve found it to be endlessly fascinating as it is such a vast subject and you can incorporate other interests so easily – geography plays a big part in the work that I make now for instance.

Art tutors have been a huge influence along the way – three particularly come to mind for their example of commitment, enthusiasm and focus which has always stood me in good stead, especially when things are tough. Although being an artist is not always easy and can often be frustrating, making art, looking at art, thinking about it, reading about it, going to a gallery, going to the art shop to buy materials are all such pleasurable activities. I have met many inspiring artists along the way, and I find the joy and excitement of being involved in art infectious.

Which artist do you most admire and why?

Agnes Martin, Happy Holiday1999, oil on canvas


Agnes Martin.  I think how she seemed to see the world and how she then attempted to distil her experiences of it into something universal really resonates with me. I admire how she organised her practice, with as much time given to looking and absorbing as to making. I also like how she took her time and once each work was finished, she understood that it then had its own life out in the world. I really enjoy her writing too, how she wasn’t afraid to talk about joy and beauty and how she managed to turn what seemed to be her experience of being overwhelmed by the world into something so positive and joyous.

How has your relationship with Digswell Arts strengthened your practice as an artist?

 In two ways: having an affordable, secure studio space has become both a sort of sanctuary and a science lab enabling complete experimentation and a natural bubbling up of ideas and concepts to occur.

Secondly, being with a small group of like-minded artists who support and encourage and understand each other is invaluable. It really helps to foster a sense of confidence and potential for your practice.

Studio view, The Forge, Digswell Arts Trust


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