An exhibition of contemporary silkscreen prints on handmade leaf paper - 25 April to 5 June 2019
Janet French’s method of response to the modern world brings back nature into the actual process of making art. As a keen gardener, she is familiar with the sense of wellbeing that arises from being immersed in the landscape. Trees, especially, are important to her. And when painting landscape she began to find the cool perfection of manufactured white paper or blank canvas unsympathetic to her subject matter. This led her to experiment. She began using natural materials for her inks and returned to the ancient practice of making paper out of leaves. Working with such materials involves harvesting and recycling, in keeping with the progress of the seasons.
A key aspect of her work is the way that she allows the leaves to retain their identity and play a structural role. They become integral to the picture and are held in tension with the image, as the artist describes: ‘The challenge has been to strike the right balance between leaf paper and image and not allow the image to dominate. The translucent nature of the paper allows me to print part of the image on the reverse side of the leaves. The image can then be seen less forcefully, and the natural details of the leaves are enhanced by the underlying ink. I also embrace the natural characteristics of the different leaves by allowing the texture to break through the image. In this way, I aim to create a balance between image and paper, man and environment.’
As can be seen from her work, the process is complicated, and the results are difficult to achieve. French likes the fact that the artist is not in complete control. But her pictures are nevertheless powerfully effective, not copies of nature but distillations of its moods and atmosphere. They make a fresh and original contribution to the English landscape tradition.
Frances Spalding, Chair of the Art Committee
The ideas and images in this body of work are drawn from the trees, fields and hedges of the East Anglian landscape. The images are hand screen printed on to paper which I create using leaves and fibres gathered from the local fields and woodlands on which my images are based. The leaves are gathered in autumn and processed using traditional papermaking techniques which I have adapted and developed to produce delicate sheets of leaf paper without the aid of added adhesives. Each sheet of leaf paper is created with an image in mind which ultimately incorporates the individual characteristics of the leaves as an integral part of that image and aims to reflect the fragile symbiotic relationship between man and the natural environment.
2006 - BA (Hons) Art and Design, Fine Art, Colchester School of Art and Design
2003 - National Diploma in Fine Art, Colchester School of Art and Design
For the last nine years, Janet French has been involved in a collaborative project with Emma Buckmaster to create a unique series of etchings of native tree species printed onto paper created from the trees’ leaves. Their story was featured in the BBC2 documentary about the RA Summer Exhibition in 2016. The Buckmaster and French Tree Portraits are now held in public and private collections worldwide.
2016 - 2019
Membership of Artworks, The Arborealists, The Printmakers Council
This art exhibition is free and open to all from 25th April to 5 June - 9 am to 6 pm.