'Holy smoke', Jane Harris

Mirrored image of a white oval shape on a brown background

Oil on canvas, 193 x 244 cm

My paintings simultaneously reveal and conceal themselves. They operate in an arena somewhere between the abstract and representation. However, such terms only serve to describe the way the paintings look rather than what they do. As with elliptical forms of communication, they are both concise and obtuse. They aim to retain a sense of secrecy or privacy, an opaqueness that, although problematic and awkward, is both engaging and enjoyable.

The paintings focus on the border between two types of space.

The fluctuating edges and shimmering surfaces create an instability and an asymmetry which are at odds with their initial appearance of balance and regularity. Discernable optical shifts in tone and colour occur as the viewer walks around the painting and sees it from different viewpoints.This sensual experience of the work is generated by the combination of the formality of the painting’s language and the process of its making. This challenges the apparently stable figuration of the painting, making it surprisingly changeable and fugitive.

In Holy smoke I have introduced a metallic, lustrous paint surface which, in relation to the large scale and resolute symmetry of the work, further enhances and dramatises these paradoxical optical and sensual qualities.


Jane Harris was born in Dorset in 1956. She studied at Bournemouth College of Art 1975-76, Camberwell School of Art 1976-77, Brighton Polytechnic 1977-79, the Slade School of Fine Art 1979-81 and Goldsmiths’ College 1989-91. Her first solo exhibition was at Anderson O’Day Gallery London 1992, and recent ones include Southampton City Art Gallery, Jack Shainman Gallery New York and Galerie Hollenbach Stuttgart, all 2001, and Kontainer Gallery Los Angeles 2004. She will have a solo show at Hales Gallery London 2005. She was included in John Moores 18 1993 and 19 1995, when she was a prizewinner.