Jane Johnson has a fascination with ancient things that stems from her childhood. Jane was brought up in the Devonshire countryside, surrounded by a softly folded landscape, abundant and bountiful flora, veteran trees, blunted cob farmhouses with thatched roofs and farmers who spoke using old words in strong local dialect. The house she was brought up in was filled with antiques and home made things and from an early age Jane learned to recognize the importance and worth of unconventional or peculiar qualities embedded in an object. One of the first significant things Jane made from clay was when she was in her early twenties. It was a small figure which she has displayed in her home.
"It has an ancient goddess-like quality that still moves me today."
The objects that Jane makes invariably have an emotional starting point. They are also concerned with narrative. Her work is domestic in scale; it is designed with a display place in mind: the mantel piece or shelf in the home. She makes objects that are intended to fit in to the household environment, yet not too comfortably. The figures are simple, alluding to medieval visual flatness, distorted perspective and lack of foreshortening; the making process using slabs is exposed, there are seams and obvious joins. They often have a childlike quality to them that is in direct conflict with what may be a complex adult narrative.
Jane uses red earthenware, cheap, honest, unpretentious and informal and add paper and coarse grog. She likes the shortness it gives the clay, like pastry, and the lumpiness, uneven texture and imperfections seem appropriate. The use of oxide washes articulates the figurative forms, reveals the detail and blemishes and imparts something akin to drawing to the piece. Jane often uses gold and other lustres in small amounts; visually this draws attention to certain details as key elements, but it also draws attention away from certain strategic components, which is all part of orchestrating the element of surprise.
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