ABSINTHE §2 Interview – Jane Hayes Greenwood
May 2019

Originally published in the ABSINTHE §2 Catalogue, published by Side Quest, produced to accompany ABSINTHE §2, curated by Billy Fraser, Charlie Mills and James Capper, 18.05.19 – 17.08.19, Spit and Sawdust Pub, Elephant and Castle.

Hector Campbell : As an interdisciplinary artist you work across a wide range of artistic mediums, including painting, sculpture, digital and video artworks. How do you approach the matching of concept and medium?

Jane Hayes Greenwood : My work definitely expands out of a painting practice. I have always had an interest in objects; the relationships we have with them; the way we invest in and covet particular things and the power they seem to have over us. In 2015, I spent a lot of time drawing and painting objects, thinking about them as psychological repositories as well as active agents.

Whilst coming across things in the world that interested me at that time, I started making small sculptural pieces as props for these works. It felt important that they existed as models to be represented rather than exhibited, but I began to have more and more ideas for works that could be made in different materials rather than just straight paintings on canvas. There is a lot of fluidity and reflexivity in my practice. Something might start as an object in the world, be translated into a painting, then further evolve into a CGI animation and back to painting etc. The different forms and approaches to making feed each other and continue to generate excitement and new work. 

H.C : Much of your work is heavily research-based, with your last solo exhibition, Lead Me Not Into Temptation, examining issues related to desire, consumption, shame and eroticism inspired by the story of the Garden of Eden. How do you use research to develop the conceptual ideas that support your artworks?

J.G : I’m quite greedy when it comes to research so if I become interested in a subject, I tend to gorge on connected artwork, imagery and information. I really love those research holes, where you make lots of new connections between seemingly random things and you can open them up and follow the offshoots. As a way of making some kind of sense of this, I make lots of drawings. In a similar way to the small sculptural pieces I was making in 2015, these kind of drawings are usually very raw. I see them as a way of thinking through different ideas rather than being works in themselves.

For Lead Me Not Into Temptation the research was focused but broad, I made 150+ drawings at the beginning of that project as a way to process what I was thinking through. From these I filtered and distilled the things I felt were important and had depth and then developed these into paintings, and a large-scale sculptural installation.

H.C : Alongside your own artistic practice you are also the Director and Co-founder of Block 336, a Brixton-based public art space and studio provider that aims to encourage the creation of site-specific work. What do you believe to be the importance of site-specificity, and how does it differ to works created for the ‘White Wall’?

J.G : At Block 336 we invite and commission artists to produce new and ambitious solo projects, by giving them time, space and support. Typically an artist will spend 5+ weeks working in our gallery spaces, in a residency-style install period. They will receive technical support and feedback from our team before opening a 4-week exhibition that has a connected, public-facing events programme.

Block 336 is a non-commercial gallery that doesn’t rely on sales of work, meaning artists are able to make work without that pressure and create something that they may not have been able to realise previously.

For many artists, Block 336 is the largest space they have exhibited in so it really gives them a chance to stretch out and do something exciting. We feel this approach is more interesting and generous for both artists and audiences.

H.C : GiG Gallery in Munich will present your latest solo exhibition this July. What can we expect to see at that show?  

J.G : The exhibition is titled The Witch’s Garden and will feature a new series of plant paintings alongside some larger works that feature figures in garden-like spaces. The powerful, threatening image of the witch really interests me. Perceived as transgressive and frightening, ‘witches’ have been persecuted throughout time, largely because of entrenched misogyny. By showing difference, these women were often viewed as dangerous; trespassing on territory deemed as off limits; posing a threat to patriarchal structures.  

With the plant paintings, I am thinking about them as potential ingredients for love potions and spells. Some are based on plants from herbal fertility guides, such as the now extinct Silphium which was reportedly used as a contraceptive and aphrodisiac. Silphium is reported to have a heart-shaped seed and one theory suggests this might be where the heart shape symbol originated from ❤

H.C : You’ve previously exhibited in experimental curatorial projects such as Ultra Sunrise (curated by IKO and Milk Collective), what draws you to these projects? And can you give us an insight into the work you are exhibiting in ABSINTHE §2 ?

J.G : I like the energy of DIY projects. They are often run on miniscule budgets and are therefore driven by love and belief. I guess I’m drawn to the collaborative and generous spirit of these endeavours.

The work I am showing in ABSINTHE §2, Queen of Poisons, was made as part of my plant series. I started by looking at imagery of wormwood and other herbs involved in the making of absinthe. The painting evolved into the depiction of a plant which is as much under the effects of something psychedelic, as having hallucinogenic properties itself. I wanted it to occupy a trippy space, growing strange forms and radiating an acidic glow as if inhabited by the green fairy.