To accompany Jane's new body of work she has written the following essay.
The Intimate Support of Water
When I was young my family had a small boat on Loch Lomond,and we spent many happy days on the water exploring the loch’s bays, islands and islets. As one such day was drawing to a close, we were caught out by a storm. Rain and strong winds brought waves up over our boat, bouncing us around and tipping the contents of the cabin onto the floor. Although we averted disaster that night, eventually making it back to the safety of the River Leven after dark, for 12-year-old me it triggered an unease with water that has stayed with me into my adult life.
This fear of deep water is something I have thought about increasingly in the last few years. A fear of the unknown, a whole world that exists below the surface where we cannot survive, a place that is unpredictable and, for me, frightening. I have, however, remained fascinated by water too and love being close to the sea, albeit from a secure and solid viewpoint. The west coast and islands of Scotland is where I would always choose to be, with short ferry journeys being at the limit of my seafaring ability.
In 2018 I created a body of work for the Tighnabruaich Gallery titled ‘Hush’, which explored Argyll’s Secret Coast, and sparked an enduring love for this area. My work at that time had mainly been focused on the land, geological features and mountains, but the Cowal peninsula started to turn my focus to the sea - so often at your side in this place. One part of my research for ‘Hush’ was how the shape and formation of the landscape affects the surrounding waters. Learning about ‘exposure roses’, which measure the topographical shelter of an area of coast, how it protects the sea lochs and bays. Pouring over bathymetric charts, revealing the depths and underwater features hidden from view. Researching all this made me think, maybe if I know more about the behaviour of water and understand it better, I would fear it less.
When, last Summer, we took a family holiday to the Craignish peninsula in Argyll, our cottage surrounded by water on three sides, the draw was irresistible. We bought a canoe to take with us, however I doubted I would personally use it. The first time I sat in that boat, low in the shallow water of a small sheltered bay, the weight of my fear very quickly lifted. The water so clear I could see the all the way to the bottom, the fabric of the boat embracing my body as we drifted across the surface, I couldn’t quite believe how comfortable I felt. For the rest of that holiday all I wanted to do was paddle the canoe. I checked the charts for depths around the peninsula, the weather,wind speed, tide times and off we went. This increased knowledge, and the ability to constantly watch what the water was doing, seemed to be the key to making the whole thing feels much less frightening.
For this new series of works I have been reflecting on my personal experiences of being on the water, about the movement of boats around the Secret Coast and of the different lines of travel transiently etched in the water. Using a mixed media of inks and water, on raw canvas and handmade paper,alongside areas and marks of thick acrylic paint, these pieces explore these thoughts. The loose flowing unpredictability of the sea, the shifting hue of the inks telling a story of depth. Disruptive marks and pattern dancing on the surface with the movement of the breeze. Warm light radiating through, touching the land and bleeding into the sea. The comfort and confidence instilled by the light and by solid ground, a nearby jetty, shore or rocky outcrop, a place of safety within reach. Lines of travel, sometimes bold and confident, sometimes more tentative and cautious but always with consideration of the nature of the water.
There is a poem by the wonderful Scottish poet Norman MacCaig which has been repeating over in my head as I made this work, titled “True Ways of Knowing”. One particular line in this poem really hits on how I felt sitting in my canoe last year, feeling the fear dissipate.
“…the way a boat would feel, if it could feel, the intimate support of water.”
(Norman MacCaig 1962)