Abstract-painter-Janet-Keith

FOUND IN TRANSLATION

18.03.19

Life as an artist is a personal journey, and no-one understands that more than abstract painter, Janet Keith. James Matthews spoke to her about the creative influences drawn from her formative years and making them relevant to present day

As children, we embrace the world around us as unhindered, free-flowing spirits. With life’s journey however, this boundless sense of freedom is often superseded by the pressure to conform be it in familial, educational or workplace settings.

Suspending the ‘here and now’ and reverting back to that youthful sense of wonder can be a challenge, but it’s one that Lewes-based abstract artist Janet Keith adopts with gusto in her creative output.

Passionate about painting from a young age – both at school and as a History of Art student at St Andrews University - Janet nevertheless pressed pause on her creative calling, opting instead to follow an altogether more traditional career path as a City lawyer.

Twenty years on, with a move to the country and the corporate world is now a dim and distant memory. Instead, Janet’s days are more often spent tucked away in her attic studio surrounded by paint pots, palettes and sketchbooks. Inspiration for her work, she explains, is the “beauty of her natural surroundings,” the green hills and weald-land of East Sussex. But instead of painting true-to-life interpretations of her environment, for Janet the emotions and feelings inspired by nature deliver something much more unique on canvas.

“My painting was initially traditional in approach, but increasingly I have found myself becoming immersed in the underlying abstract qualities of painting - focusing on them and creating a mood rather than being literal. I am often surprised by how the paintings turn out - but almost always in a good way,” she adds  This pivotal switch in approach came in 2013 after she was invited to become an artist in residence at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in Sussex. There, she was given free-reign to explore and draw inspiration from the rambling estate grounds.

“On one occasion, I happened to be painting in the Figaro Garden and I heard one of the opera singers practicing her aria alongside the florid song of a blackbird in the hedge,” she explains. “Both ‘singers’ sounded so spontaneous and free, but at the same time they were adhering to a pattern established for them - by nature in the case of the bird and for the singer, it was the composer of the music. The experience made me re-think my outlook. I began to realise that painting in a way that combined both abstract structure and an expressive spontaneity could create paintings which would be a visual equivalent to listening to music and that appealed to me.”

Janet’s formative years studying art placed a great deal of emphasis on ‘observational drawing’ and perfecting skills of re-creation. It’s a discipline, she explains, that she’ll be forever grateful for. “It has given me the technical know-how. It’s only really now that the time feels right to go back to a more innocent sensibility, to a time when mixing a palette was fascinating and full of wonder. It’s not about making something look like a house, or a flower any more – it’s about self-expression, conveying energy and ‘joie de vivre’ in the moment.”

To date, Janet’s work has been exhibited in some of the most prestigious art venues across the UK, most recently at the Royal Ulster Academy, The Mall Gallery, London. Some of Janet’s work will feature in the Christmas Show at the Josie Eastwood Gallery in Stockbridge, Hampshire and at the St.Annes Galleries, Lewes, East Sussex.

“The paintings are entirely open to interpretation - each person brings their unique life experience and imagination to the painting and can find in it what they will - enjoyment, I hope. Art is a gift. It has the power to stir the deepest of emotions within us. Quite often it’s those feelings that bubble to the surface quite unexpectedly that teach us the most.”

For more about Janet’s work visit www.janetkeith.co.uk and for more about her work on display at the Josie Eastwood Gallery visit www.josieeastwood.com/

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