Tag Archives: Contemporary Art

Interview: Jane Hope

Fields, Cumbria. Pastel. Jane  Hope.JPG

Fields, Cumbria, Jane Hope

Jane Hope is an Oxford based artist who took up art as a child, and has painted ever since.  Growing up in Wiltshire, she was encouraged by her mother, who shared her love of art.  After studying Theology and Philosophy at university, she worked as a neighbourhood Community Worker in Coventry, a Development Worker for Oxfordshire Mind, and brought up tow sons, one of whom is now also a painter.  She now has a studio at the bottom of her garden, and is able to devote more of her time to painting.  She is a member of the Oxford Art Society, and you can read more about her life, and see more of her work, on her website here.
What piece of art by another artist (from past or present) has been most significant to you in your own life and work?

It is difficult to single out one piece of art, because there are many, and I don’t think we are always aware that we are being influenced. Much of it is subtle, subconscious and gradual. However I remember two significant pieces from school, one in the corridor, one in a classroom. I looked at them often and they got under my skin. One was Wood on the Downs by Paul Nash, and the other was Harvest Landscape by Van Gogh. I love trees, especially in the winter, and have used the patterns they make in many of my pictures. In Van Gogh’s painting it is the light and the sense of great distance that has stayed with me.

Who would you recommend as an underrated artist?

Underrated might not be the right word, because he is highly rated by those who know him. I think the Welsh Artist Kyffin Williams is brilliant. I love the boldness and simplicity of his work. He seems to know exactly what he wants to say and says it. He works with a palette knife too, which I like to do. Two other artists working at the moment are Andrew Gifford and Susan Isaac, both of whom produce strong impasto pieces.

Do you have any recommendations for art history books or authors?

I am not very good at this! I studied Art History for A level in 1963 and have not done much since. There are of course some interesting Art History programmes on TV and some of the best are by Andrew Graham Dixon. He has written a biography of Caravaggio called ‘A Life Sacred and Profane’ and gave a very interesting talk on this in Oxford a couple of years ago.

A slightly different aspect of Art History comes in Victoria Finlay’s books on colour and the history of pigments. ‘Colour. A Natural History’ and ‘The Brilliant History of Colour in Art’.

Is there a movement or period you have been most interested in or fascinated by?

When I was studying at school the chiaroscuro work by Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and George de la Tour, fascinated me, but it is the Impressionist movement that is probably the most exciting. The way they capture the moment with such a free use of paint is very inspiring.  I was also always excited by Cezanne’s brush strokes and his use of colour.

Impressionism continues today in the many artists who work en plein air, painting on the streets in all weathers. For instance there is Ken Howard, Peter Brown, Fred Cumming, and others (including my son Benjamin Hope!).

Incidentally a major exhibition is coming up soon:


27 Plein air artists.

Menier Gallery

October 16th -20th.


You studied theology and philosophy at University, do you feel that this has had an impact on your work?

The short answer is no!  I studied these subjects because I found them interesting, but my art work is in no way conceptual or intellectual. It is never based on ideas but always springs from what I see. The only thing I would say is that Philosophy taught me clarity of thought, which may help in the problem solving that painting demands.

There is a strong sense of place in all of your works; is this something you specifically strive for, or is it something that naturally finds its way into your creations?

I always work very instinctively, so I don’t strive for a sense of place. I mainly strive to put down what has formed as a picture in my head. Most days of my life I see things that make a picture. Sometimes I paint en plein air, but my usual way of working is to make sketches of what has made an impact in my mind, and to work from these in the studio.

I have a bedroom in the loft of my house that looks towards Boars Hill. In June 2016 I decided to paint this view at least once a week for a whole year. I took paints, boards, brushes, and easel up to the bedroom and produced 75 paintings of the view in different weather, at different times, and from different angles. It was a very exciting project and quite a change from my usual way of working.

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March 6th and 8th Morning, Jane Hope


You exhibit with the Oxford Art Society; what role do you think such groups play in supporting artists?

Oxford Art Society is primarily an exhibiting society, so the first role it plays is to give us the opportunity to exhibit in a gallery with good artists, and to sell. It is also a very friendly community of artists, and members have the choice of how much or how little they get involved. Helping with the two annual exhibitions is a great way to get to know other artists and to discover the wide range of styles and working methods there are. It is challenging and stimulating to look at the work of other artists and to learn and grow. I value the OAS hugely and enjoy being a member.

You work in a variety of media, and each has its own special qualities. How do you feel that each choice of tool or material responds to the subject you choose to depict with it?

When I see something I have to paint, I usually see it in one of the mediums I use, (oil or chalk pastel).  Once I have done one version, say in oil, others grow from it and I might develop it in pastel, and then back again to oil.  I often see strong shapes in landscapes which translate into the bold sweeps of impasto laid down with a palette knife. At other times I might want to create more intricate patterns through winter trees, which works well with pastels. I enjoy changing from one medium to another and it is good to follow the way the medium takes me. It is great fun to scribble with pastel after having used brushes on a canvas – and vice versa.
One of your frequent subjects is the Still Life. This genre has been a constant source of debate, and explored by artists for many reasons across the centuries, from the great Dutch artists to Cezanne, and beyond. What draws you to it?

I am drawn to Still Life in the way I am drawn to every subject. I see it and love it and have to paint it! I have an allotment, and a big apple tree in the garden. I walk past the onions I have harvested, or pick up the windfall apples, and see how beautiful they are. I have to paint them.

The other thing about painting Still Life is that it is a really good discipline. It is an excellent way to practice eye to hand techniques, and to think about composition. I have to look very carefully and constantly at the objects I am painting. The subject draws me in and many colours become apparent. I have to decide then how much detail to reproduce, and how much to leave out. It is completely absorbing.

Apples Galore 1.JPG

Apples Galore, Jane Hope

September 2018










The Purpose of Public Art – Broken Chair, Daniel Berset and Louis Geneve, 1997

Broken Chair, Geneva

In this post I’ll look at some of the ideas raised by ‘Broke Chair’, in Geneva.  Public art is a fascinating area to consider, it prompts so many thoughts about audience, purpose, function, even material, and so on.  I may well follow this up with other essays on public artworks, so if this is something that appeals to you, let me know in the comments, and keep an eye out!

This artwork raises questions about the ‘function’ of art, particularly public art, and especially non-narrative art.  This was, unlike most sculptures, created for a very specific and active purpose: to remind those at the UN of the horrendous impact of land mines and cluster bombs in the run up to the signing of two significant agreements, the Otaowa Treaty in 1997 and the Oslo Treaty in 2008.  It was first installed in 1997, and reinstalled in 2007.  Originally commissioned by Paul Vermeulen, co-founder of Handicap International Suisse.  It reaches 12 metres high, and is made from 5.5 tonnes of wood.  Artist Daniel Berset created the idea, while it was constructed by carpenter Louis Geneve.  It is bolted to the ground, and it is clear to see how it is made from numerous pieces of wood.  It serves an essentially commemorative purpose, the torn leg an allegory for the physical destruction these horrific devices cause.  One could compare it to the Cenotaph in London.  Though it does not commemorate a specific conflict, but rather the victims of global conflicts, it acts a warming to future generations: ‘do not let this happen again’, in a similar way.  However, the abstract form the work takes goes some way towards obscuring this reasoning.  It has, predictably and understandable, become one of ‘the sights’ on the Geneva tourist trail.  It has become a fun photo-opportunity for the selfie-driven masses.  Much like the ‘leaning tower of Pisa’, it has become the focus of fun and cutesy, optical illusion shots, people raising their hands to complete the broken leg, or simply demonstrate its great size by their failure to do so.  This is quite understandable, it is a fun thing to do, and the resulting photos are a silly memento of the trip, the more serious photos being saved for poses in front of the UN flags.  But one can’t help but consider whether the work is achieving its awareness-raising function.  An advantage that works like the Cenotaph has is that they are extremely simple to understand – war memorials depicting tombs, brave and injured soldiers, and so on, clearly demand a sombre tone, and one can’t help but consider the issues they depict.  By contrast, the Broken Chair, while having the advantage of being a striking a simple image, demands an imaginative leap (and indeed some prior knowledge) on the part of the viewer.


This leads one on to a question of audience.  Who is the audience for this work?  Who is supposed to understand it?  Maybe the woman taking photos of her two dogs in front of the work isn’t really the target viewer.  The physical context of the piece is carefully chosen, it stares down the alley of flags, in an almost intimidating fashion.  It holds these collected nations to account; taller than the flags it faces, it represents the universality of the issue, of the threat.  It is greater than any one nation, than, indeed, the idea of nationhood.  It speaks to the universal important of recognising the shared humanity of the world’s inhabitants.  Angrily looking down upon those small, insignificant individuals who will nevertheless make world-changing decisions in the UN, it is raised to a higher purpose.  So perhaps it does not matter that tourist and locals alike have embraced it as a source of humour and pleasure; in taking on one role, it has not necessarily abandoned the other.



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