Monday, August 24, 2009

An interview with Jane Milner-Barry

Q – Could you introduce yourself briefly to the readers?

I am a Londoner but have lived in Swindon and Highworth for twenty years. I work for Swindon Borough Council some of the time and have a typing speed of 82 words a minute. Painting is a much slower process unfortunately.

Blue and White by Jane Milner-Barry

Q - How did you become interested in art?

As children we are all interested in art. We enjoy playing about with colours and patterns, making likenesses of things, telling stories with pictures, all the different aspects of the visual arts. Some of us just have the good fortune not to grow out of this inclination.

Q - What inspires you most as an artist?

If I had waited to be inspired, I wouldn’t have got much done.

Cistus and Cranesbill by Jane Milner-Barry

Q - What is your favourite medium or media? Why?

I have always used oil paint, as well as drawing of course. Oil paint is slow to dry, often it doesn’t behave as you want, it’s cumbersome to use outdoors, the nicest colours are very expensive, and I don’t suppose years of inhaling white spirit have done me any good. However, as I know I have hardly even begun to explore what can be done with this medium, I don’t feel any urgent need to try another one.

Q - Could you tell us some more about your work?

I hope people will come and have a look at it on 12th and 13th September at the old Reference Library, Regent Circus, which is a really beautiful place for displaying paintings.

Q - How would you define your style?

A painter doesn’t have to think about his or her style. That’s a job for critics.

Empties by Jane Milner-Barry

Q - What are your influences; artists from the past or present who inspire you?

I like pretty well everything – but maybe Goya best of all, because of his seemingly casual technical mastery, his variety, his anger, the affection and empathy with which he paints some of his sitters, the wonderfully sinister quality which pervades his most idyllic pastoral scenes, all these things. I don’t like artworks that can be easily dismantled, or that require a lot of technical maintenance to keep them going - like, for instance, unmade beds, or dead sharks in tanks. That doesn’t seem right to me. Though I suppose those Goyas are kept in highly controlled environments and are constantly being monitored and restored!

Near Swindon we can see the perfection of stained glass at Fairford , the bewitching Sleeping Beauty paintings by Burne-Jones at Buscot House, and the Sandham Memorial Chapel, Stanley Spencer’s moving memorial to the dead of the First World War. In the Swindon Art Gallery there are some fine paintings including a terrific John Bellany, a double portrait of himself and his wife.

Q- How do you prepare yourself for an exhibition or a show like the Open Studios?

In June this year I had an exhibition at the gallery at Coleshill Village Shop which is a lovely place, well worth a visit any time! It was a very useful experience because I had to review all my work, tidy up some paintings and make the decision to throw some away.

Still Life with Lemons by Jane Milner-Barry

Q- Did you take part in the Swindon Open Studios in the past?

Last year I left it too late to take part, so I did my own open studio in Highworth, which was fun.

Q - Are there territories (media, subjects, etc.) you want to explore in the coming years?

New territories . . . maybe I’ll take to the road with a sketchbook and my dog.

Q - Could you share one thing that you have learnt in your own art practice that would be useful to other artists?

Look after your paintings properly. Put as many as you can on your walls. That is the safest way to store them, and you will be able to criticise them on your way to the fridge.

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