Jane Bottery recently graduated in Fine Art from the University of Hertfordshire, becoming a fellow of Digswell Arts this year with a studio at The Forge Digswell.
She uses a variety of media – paint, charcoal, watercolour, pastel, plaster – to create minimal works where the original inspiration has been subtracted to its essence; her delicate work, which hovers between painting and drawing, has been described as peaceful and meditative.
1) How would you describe your current practice (e.g. materials, techniques, themes, key questions, approach)?
I make abstract, minimal works in oil pastel on paper, which are contained in a white box frame. The source and inspiration for the work can originate in a landscape, an urban setting, an interior or can be purely abstract without any original source. I apply, remove and reapply layers of oil pastel until I have built up a patina which has a sense of light and depth as well as the quality of marks and edges that I am interested in. The key question for me when making the work is at what point is the work complete – my aim is to reduce an image to its essence.
I also make work in charcoal, oil paint and plaster. The themes, approach and key questions are generally the same, concerned with observations of shape, space and light, with adding and removing, and to do with reduction.
2) What are you working on at the moment (forthcoming exhibitions, events, workshops etc)?
My current focus is establishing my studio practice at Digswell. I graduated in Fine Art from the University of Hertfordshire in 2016 and since joining the Trust this year, my main focus has been on my studio space and participating in Herts Visual Arts Forum/Digswell Open Studios which took place in September. Open Studios was a great way to meet the public and it was also a really useful opportunity to evaluate, select and decide how the work would be best displayed in a new space. Since then, I have been concentrating on making new work and in November I will be learning Solar Plate Etching in the printmaking workshop here at The Forge.
3) What are your plans for the coming year?
It is my first year as a Fellow so my priority is to make the best use of my studio space and the facilities and to continue to develop my practice. I have previously had work selected for galleries and exhibitions in Hertfordshire and London so I will continue to explore similar opportunities over the coming year.
4) What is the question you get asked most about your work and how do you answer it?
The question I get asked most about my work is ‘how is it made, is it a print?’ I talk about why it looks like a print but why it isn’t and I explain the actual process. I like the question because it opens up a conversation about the work and about my concerns as an artist, and also because it means the viewer has been drawn in to look closely at the work which is a real positive.
5) What or who inspired you to be an artist and why?
I think it was just something that was always there as something I wanted to do. Although not always easy and often 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 – tutors, friends – along the way and the joy and excitement of being involved in art is infectious.
6) Which artist do you most admire and why?
At college, we were encouraged to be very clear about the context of our work, in terms of other artists, and I found that to be a really helpful part of the course. I would highlight Agnes Martin, Rebecca Salter, Ben Nicholson and Rachel Whiteread as being influential. I wrote my thesis on Agnes Martin and it was fascinating to get to know her life and how she managed to make such meditative works. Although she is known to be a very minimal artist there are such lovely human qualities to her paintings and I’m really drawn to that.
Rebecca Salter makes monochrome, mixed media work and I am interested in how she creates such a variety of marks and surfaces so economically. With Ben Nicholson, I particularly admire his more abstract, sculptural reliefs and, in a similar way to Agnes Martin, it is how he combines a sort of minimal perfection with the handmade and human.
There is a theme here, to do with restraint, mark making and imperfections and these are some of the reasons I admire Rachel Whiteread. I think all these artists manage to create an atmosphere with their work that is quiet and life affirming and pleasurable, and I aspire to that with my practice as well.
I would like to add a place – Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. I have seen great exhibitions there and the house is amazing, where art and life have been combined into one inspiring place.
7) How has your relationship with Digswell Arts Trust strengthened your practice as an artist?
As a fairly new Fellow, I am in the process of working this out but it is clear that having your own warm, dry, low-cost studio with good facilities is a huge help because it enables you to concentrate on your practice. Also, being with like-minded people and the support and encouragement that provides, really gives you the impetus to push forward. Taking part in events like Open Studios and critiques which involve other Digswell Fellows and the wider community gives you the opportunity to present, discuss and ideally sell your work, and so become a more professional artist.