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artist spotlight: jan gardner

Can you tell us a little about the most recent works that you have on display here at the gallery? Was there any particular inspiration behind these pieces?

My creative practice stems from a fascination for the spiritual connection between land, sea and sky - nature in all its contemplative glory. My paintings are an emotional response, a tangible visible form of a feeling. A sense of place through the expression of marks and colour between the real and imagined places, both from the actual and remembered. I am fascinated by combining these through line, colour, texture and shape. I love to work outside for plein air sketches, and then to work through sketches and to develop paintings both in the environment but also through memory and imagination back in the studio. The inspiration behind the pieces for the Spring Fling show have been a range ‘walk’ and ‘standing still’ memories from the west of Scotland meanders. Take for instance ‘Camasinas Burn, Contemplation’, every time we come up to Ardnamurchan, I love this view, the lone tree and the glistening shadows and pebble scattered waters. It makes me feel a joyful calm. 

The deep echoes and stillness of ‘Safe Harbour, Kilchoan’, make me want to dip in the boat and take a solitary journey, rowing into peace. 

‘Mystical Bunessan’ is a celebration of the magical bay on Mull. All of the six pieces are my interpretation of life in this land, as I see it. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your process?

My process begins by meditation, not the formal kind, sitting contemplating my naval, but the type that is spent from the time I step foot in the studio. I like to listen to some music, something moving and spiritual to set me in the mood. I will listen and doodle for a while, take out sketchbooks, ponder, reflect, look at my paints, inks, tools, things that might need attention. Then I look at the work stacking up and moving along in their stages.

When I start a new piece, I begin with very loose expressive marks on paper using watercolour, inks, crayon and latterly when working on canvas I use fluid acrylic and oil sometimes. I call this my ‘warm up’, I like to study and stare at these in their early stages, they have starting points from the sketches and notes I have made and the memory of the spaces I have interacted with by being there and how I felt at the time. The ephemeral quality is essential and this gives me permission to add the mark-making, some detail to suggest the natural forms, to build the layers, to resonate the memory settled in my mind.

The colours are so important to me, they enable me to suggest the life force and energy of the world we are surrounded by, and also the magical echo of the imagination. All of these stages become a process of meditation. Some pieces resolve more quickly, depending on size, some I work on for many weeks. These are not quick fixes, I never know how they will turn out, they belong for a lifetime. 

Where do you prefer to work and why?  

Whilst gathering my responses for inspiration, I will happily be ensconced in sketching, pencil, watercolour and pastels in the places I find inspiring outside, then bring them back to explore further. Then these all become starting points to develop and imbue the memory. I have a little studio in my garden, which extends in the summer months! It is a haven though, cut off from passing life. I, and sometimes my cats and wild birds, love to spend time there. Thinking, planning, researching, mixing colours. All of these can keep me happily immersed for hours. I do not let any IT work invade this space, it is purely a contemplative and creative zone. 

What are you working on at the moment, or what will you be working on next? 

The piece I am working on at the moment was started before the covid-19 situation. I had been out, up in one of the local rural passes. I love this size canvas, and larger, to work on at the moment. I am making a series of these larger pieces to hopefully go on exhibition later this year. I have found it important to keep my inspiration going over this time, even if it’s a short while in the day. It is a good source of sustenance for me, nourishes my eye and my soul.

See more of Jan Gardner's work here.

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