As part our recent series of interviews with Artists due to show at Art Fairs this year, we had the opportunity to ask Jane Fredericks to tell us more about her working practice and inspirations.
The show can be viewed online here
Interview by Gallery Director Gina Cross in June 2020.
GC: Thanks for taking some time to chat. For those that are not yet familiar with your work, can you tell us about your working process - how does it begin for you and what mediums are you using ?
JF: My paintings evolve instinctively and although I don’t over analyse the process or the intention behind the need to create, it is a need for harmony and balance that drives them. When beginning a new painting I have a very loose idea of colour and forms but I then launch myself into it in a very instinctive way that allows me to change course and feel my way through.. I use a mix of acrylic paints, house paints and textural mediums from my specialist decorating days plus a lot of masking tape, building up textures and compositions which although very minimal often have a history of layers beneath the surface. I will work on a painting until that moment I feel it has achieved a balance. If it’s just not getting there despite all the work that has gone into it , I just paint over it and force myself to change direction. That’s always a difficult decision as sometimes it can be as simple as a little pink square that makes everything fall into balance but if I can’t find that detail then after a time I just need to restart. A simple composition can therefore have a very complicated journey sometimes. When I feel a painting is finished I usually put a thin tinted glaze over the whole thing to unify it , again something carried through from my specialist decorating work where building up layers of the glazes was a major part of the job.
GC: Is there a dialogue between you and the forms and the colours as the work evolves, or is it planned out in sketchbooks first ?
JF: When I am painting I just get really focused on working my way towards what for me feels like a calm place , a balancing act of colour and composition.It becomes about creating harmony and order out of a chaos whether in my head or the world around me. I draw from nature mostly when choosing colours and am constantly making mental notes of colour combinations I happen to see in the sky the sea a stone or a flower. I like breaking things down to their simplest purest forms though sometimes that means repainting and reworking the compositions. Some of my simplest paintings have had the longest journey and the hardest battle to get there , but I like that. There is a vocabulary of shapes developed during my earlier works where I was mixing cut out shapes from vintage and contemporary magazines and combining them with paint, inspired very much by mid-century minimalist painters. As the works became larger I recreated these shapes in paint. The circles, the half circles , the negative shapes, curves and rectangles all find their way into the compositions which become simple visual sentences almost.
GC: Your work evokes a beautiful nostalgia - are you inspired by a specific art movement/artists/designers/architects etc.
JF: The element of ”nostalgia” as you put it definitely runs through all my work from the earlier hand cut collages through to the paintings. Mid century aesthetics whether in art, architecture or interiors have definitely influenced my style and I often think past the painting and about where it will hang and what will surround it . A painting once it’s hung becomes a detail of its new surroundings and I definitely like to imbue the paintings with a feel for that time. I like to think that they can carry with them the history and feel of a certain moment. I have always found the more minimalist a painting the longer it holds my attention. Ben Nicholson’s 1934 OM reliefs for example or Malevich’s Black square.(1915) are examples.
GC: Given your current limitations due to lockdown and your cancer treatment, how has this impacted on your working practice?
JF: Last April I discovered I had cancer and my life turned very much upside down. Like many artists I had my day job which was as a specialist decorator creating wall finishes for high end residential interiors . I had just finished a large job in Chelsea and I haven’t been up a ladder since. The difficulties of going through treatments meant that Art now became my main and only focus and it has been a very important friend throughout this new chapter. Working towards shows and commissions has not only helped me get through some tough times and still does, but ironically there has been great joy and a level of success in finally allowing myself to just do what for years I had wanted to do. As awful as my cancer is it liberated the painting somehow. It’s strange.
I began a second cycle of chemotherapy at the beginning of March and shortly afterwards lockdown kicked in. The decision was made at the beginning to isolate at my partner’s flat in Hove as he has a garden and I have only returned to London for my treatment. Initially I wasn’t thinking about art or painting but just how to get through the next weeks. I was terrified I will be honest that with my weakened immune system I may not even see the end of lockdown. Plus I had to try and be mum to my 16 yr old daughter Edie who had just had the rug pulled from under her feet ahead of her GCSE's .
Like everyone we all tried to adapt during those initial weeks to this strange new world. I spent a lot of time in the garden watching flowers grow and staring up at the sky. All my paints etc were back in London so I quickly did an art supplies order, which I think took 3 weeks to arrive by which time I had been back to London for treatment and grabbed all my brushes and boards. The most amazing spring I can ever remember certainly delivered inspiration. Space was a major issue as we have all been in a one bed flat. I even pitched a small tent in the garden at one point to give us an extra room. But somehow we all managed to work around each other and I managed to complete the body of work that is now framed up and ready for the online show. I could go on forever about the anxieties of covid cancer and chemo but to be honest I’d rather just focus on the good stuff . Which brings me full circle to my whole reason for painting which is the pursuit of harmony , balance, and a quietness in the mind. It’s a kind of meditation.
GC: Do you have an ideal commission you would love to do - and if so what would that be ?
JF: I do fantasise about having a huge studio like the ones seen in old photographs of the Abstract Expressionists where I have a massive painting on the go which requires a tall ladder to reach and all the time I need to complete it. I’d probably go transcendental and just throw myself into one colour like Kazimir Malevich “White on White”, or “Black Square”. Building up layers and textures but meditating on just one colour and feeling absorbed by it and lost in it . Then, once finished it would find its way to an incredible space. I can feel that place but I don’t know it. It feels peaceful. There’s so much noise in our world isn’t there ? It’s good to turn the volume down sometimes.
To view Jane's collection for the online exhibition - the show will be live from Noon on Thursday 25 June. View show here
For a preview PDf catalogue please you can download here