Interview: Jayne Parker Johnson | Living North

Interview: Jayne Parker Johnson

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Jayne Parker Johnson
Spennymoor artist Jayne Parker Johnson is about to step out on her own with her first solo exhibition. We catch up with her to see what it’s like to start off as a professional artist

How does it feel to have your first solo exhibition coming up? 

I’m so excited! I’ve had many collaborative exhibitions across the region on and off over the last 10 years, but this is the first time I’m really putting myself out there on my own. It’s scary! But I’ve found that I have created a number of watercolour paintings at my studio recently, so this seems like the next step. I feel like I’m ready for it.

Something that’s really interesting about your art is that it has a lot of subliminal symbolism – why is this important to you? 

When I paint I’m communicating and expressing a part of myself that isn’t usually visible. I start my work by thinking: what’s happening in my life? What is motivating me right now? I always seem to return to Pre-Raphaelite paintings for inspiration – they’re full of mythology, hidden symbolism and metaphors that I love to read about.

For example, I recently painted a little deer fawn; to some this may just look like a pretty picture, but to me it sums up how I felt when I painted it. The fawn has big, wide eyes: it’s excited to see the world and what it has to offer. It’s just at that moment before standing up for the first time, so it’s sure to be wobbly and uncertain, but it’s still eager to explore. When I painted the fawn it was when I had just started as a self-employed artist, finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I was excited – uncertain but keen to get going. There have been many times in my life where I’ve felt like that little fawn: a little vulnerable, but ready to start down a new path. The deer is a wonderfully majestic creature, quiet and peaceful. I gave this piece the title New Dawn.

At what point in your life did you first realise you were any good at art?

I’ve always loved to experiment and explore with different materials – it was just always something that I enjoyed. I was about 14 years old when I really started to ‘practice’ drawing and painting for the first time. My first drawings weren’t great, but I kept practising and I started researching different techniques. By the time I finished my GCSEs it had developed into more of a serious interest, and I was starting to see that I was actually pretty good.

What’s the best thing about being a professional artist?

I always have so many ideas and images in my head, so the best thing for me is that now I get the time to properly express them. Since becoming self-employed, my world has opened up – I’ve met so many inspirational people and I’m much more involved in my community.

And what’s the worst?

Uncertainty. You have to take risks all the time – some pay off, some don’t.

How has your art developed over the years?

The idea of ‘hidden depths’ is a theme that has ran through my work since university. A lot of that initial inspiration has remained – I find that I’m always being drawn back to certain artists and time periods – but the focus of my work has changed and it’s now much more personal.

I also think my work shifts depending on the medium I’m working in. My degree was in textile crafts, so it was all about expressing my ideas through printed design, while my Masters was in glass art; I’d use cast glass to create decals of animals as though they were frozen in time.

Whatever materials I’m working with, my constant is painting and drawing; it underpins everything. I’d love to transform some of my newer paintings into ceramic sculpture. 

You say that a lot of the people that enjoy your work form a personal connection with your pieces. Does this happen naturally or is it something that you’ve had to work at? 

I think that the energy and, obviously, the technique of my work is something that I’ve developed and they’re both things that I continue to work at. This energy seems to really connect with people, so in that sense it is down to hard work. But in terms of the subjects I like to paint, they’re more down to a natural preference. I think the symbolism connected with a lot of my pieces really draws people in. So it’s a bit of both.

You’re also a ceramics tutor and you’ve mentioned that the focus of your art shifts depending on the medium you’re working with. Does your approach to art change too?

No, my approach never changes: art for me is about well-being. It’s about enjoying the process of creating and finding time to engage with something rewarding and enjoyable. That’s what I really stress as a tutor and as an artist. Art is for everyone, so if you enjoy it – do it!

What do you hope people will take away from your A Moment To Last exhibition? 

I’d want them to feel encouraged to cherish the moments that make lasting memories. I hope my art will push people to look a little deeper and think about why they make the connections they do.

What are your plans for the future? 

I’d love to find the right gallery that would like to sell my work. My plan is to start creating larger canvas paintings, so hopefully this first exhibition will open a few more doors!

Jayne’s exhibition, A Moment To Last, will open at the Bondgate Gallery in Bishop Auckland on 15th April and will run until 15th May.

Published in: April 2018

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