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Meet artist Jane Gray

PUBLISHED: 12:30 30 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:59 02 September 2016

Jane Gray

Jane Gray

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Lamberhurst-based artist Jane Gray's many years in Africa are reflected in her exuberantly colourful paintings

Jane GrayJane Gray

Jane Gray’s intriguingly named Pink Buddha Studio looks like a Swiss chalet on the outside and a parallel universe on the inside. It is just five metres by four metres.

“I need one twice the size,” she admits – but her cottage is rented from a golf club, so any expansion is a bit of a problem.

Having lived in Africa for 34 years, first in Zimbabwe and then in Cape Town, Jane has been in Kent for five years but tells me “I’m still in love with Africa.”

Born in Warwickshire, she went to a college where painting to music and movement to music were part of the daily curriculum, as was a lecture about an Old Master during Assembly.

Jane in her studio (Photos: Manu Palomeque)Jane in her studio (Photos: Manu Palomeque)

At the age of 13 she went to Stourbridge High School and then on to Stourbridge Art School, before going to Africa.

Jane later met Picasso and Giacometti during a stint at what has now become Tate Britain, as she was invited to all the Private Views there.

She doesn’t say she would prefer to work in London, but points out that Kent’s trees and abundant nature feed her soul and that it’s only a 55-minute train ride into the capital.

Two years ago Jane was shortlisted for the Threadneedle prize in a big show at the Mall Galleries, where she has exhibited with the Society of Women Artists. She exhibited widely in Cape Town and in the UK at the Society for Graphic Fine Art at the Menier Gallery on Bankside, and at the Affordable Art Fair.

Jane's studioJane's studio

Locally Jane exhibits in Wadhurst, at the Pilgrims’ Way Art Show (in Lenham each May) and you can see her work in The Spa Galleries on the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells.

“There are some very good self-taught artists,” says Jane, “but in a status-driven society, formal art training gives confidence.” Her mother was an oil painter and would often be out down the country lanes painting en plein air, which proved a great influence in her younger life.

Jane’s preferred medium is acrylic: “it dries quickly, which lets me work spontaneously and I can apply the next layer.” She paints mainly on paper because she loves how the paint moves and blends. Sometimes she paints on canvas prepared with gesso or starts by pouring ink on with the gesso on top if it goes wrong. A painting can take from one hour to 10 years.

So how does Jane go about choosing what to paint? “It chooses me: I start from an abstract but I love nature and wildness and that is what appears in some form.

“Abstracts, however, are more challenging because unlike figurative, there is no template. The main problems are in expressing a feeling or an idea in abstract terms, and getting the balance of colours and rhythms right.

“I work on several at once so I stop, go on to a new one, then get inspiration for the former one. It’s practice and sensitivity which help get it right.”

She adds: “I don’t plan ahead. I let an idea or event float around in my brain for a while, then at the last minute I leap into action. I get bored planning ahead!”

She does some sketches, but not related to specific pieces of work. Rather the sketch is “just like sowing the seeds of an idea.” Nor does Jane categorise her work in any specific genre. “I used to call my style organic expressionism but now I call it ‘shamanic art’, as it is about the energies and spirit in all things.” It is no surprise, with this emphasis on the spiritual, to learn that one of Jane’s artistic heroes is Kandinsky. Asked which colour Jane would paint in if she could choose only one, she opts for yellow, a favourite of Kandinsky, who talks about its psychic effect and the spirituality in this colour, which he also paralleled with insanity.

I share a strange little snippet I discovered about Indian yellow: originally created from the dried urine of cows fed with mangoes, when the colonial government went into India, it banned this practice.

Jane’s inspiration is about the “energies beyond our vision, basically quantum physics, order out of chaos, the miraculousness of nature.” For her, art is absolutely vital: “It’s a form of meditation and a passion I can’t resist.”

For a view of these irresistible energies expressed in paint, you can see work on show at the Wadhurst Commemoration Hall, from 1-10 September 2016.

Get in touch

Contact Jane Gray on 01892 891680 for a studio visit to Pink Buddha Studio in Lamberhurst.

See Jane’s work at The Spa Galleries, 24 The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells TN2 5TN, telephone 01892 542647

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