The Shock of the Now Issue 21
Featured Exhibition Text

Jane Hayes Greenwood
'Garden of the Night' Solo Exhibition
8th December 2021

Jane Hayes Greenwood‘s current Castor solo exhibition features a selection of paintings from her recognizable series The Witches Garden, alongside two new bodies of work and a multi-media installation that delve deeper into the artist’s obstetric experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing.

The Witches Garden, an ongoing series of paintings initiated in 2019, portrays fictitious flora and imagined herbage inspired by midwifery practices, alchemical potion ingredients and herbal fertility supplements. Here, Hayes Greenwood’s Garden of the Night is populated by false fungi complete with fondant caps adorned like Cherry Bakewells, trident saplings sprouting from bulging heaped masses of parturient plant matter, a chorus line of gaping jaws flowering in unison and ruffled fronds that slowly stretch skyward.

Nearby, a suite of paintings from the artist’s new series, The Temple, sees acclaimed archaeological finds and art historical cornerstones such as the Venus of Willendorf, the Venus of Hohle Fels or the Venus of Dolní Věstonice taking on a mothering role. Some of the earliest examples of figurative artistic endeavour, these ancient amulets are thought to have been crafted as fertility fetishes or mother goddesses due to the emphasis upon, and enlargement of, their sexual or childbearing anatomy. Here the Venuses serve a dual purpose, at once standing guard over the delicate sproutlings and seedlings, whilst also providing the plantlets with sustenance as they lactate mother’s milk.

Another new series of paintings, Rooting, exposes a secret sprawling subterranean network of roots, supposedly the previous plants’ umbilical providers of hydration and nourishment. In this darker underground existence, childhood iconography and emblems of juvenescence serve as guiding lights, as the roots reach out to entangle a toy plane (evidenced in the earth of an earlier Temple painting), a single toddler t-bar shoe and a set of illuminating crayons. 

Finally, the exhibitions installation element, an environment entitled Silvery River (another name for the Milky Way, a puckish pun perhaps), features one of the aforementioned stone statues, recreated life-sized and rugged atop a moss-covered plinth, raised to the stature of contemporary commemorative sculpture or an allegorical alter. Alongside, a magnificent mammary gland inflorescence is rendered in CGI, its lactiferous ducts spouting generous jets of breast milk and colostrum - the initial secretions produced immediately after childbirth, so abundantly rich in antibodies and nutrients that it is often referred to as ‘liquid gold’.