Artist Profile: Jan Harrington
We talk to Jan Harrington, who creates site-specific installations, in the latest of our artist profile series. Nominated as part of the Graduate Platform Award 2019, Jan’s recent exhibitions include Project Space, MK Gallery, Project Space NN Contemporary and Free Range London 2019. She is a Print Fellow at the University of Northampton.
How would you describe your current work?
I create site-specific installations in tape, where each line is intuitive, sometimes breaking through the traditional confines of an artwork, across a wall or around a corner.
I also use intuition and spontaneity with thread taking the viewer into a smaller, more personal space creating lines that take inspiration from the world around us as individuals.
How did you decide what type of work you wanted to focus on?
My tape work developed at university when I was studying for my art degree – talking art for three years with tutors and visiting artists and having space and time to experiment, helped me to figure out what my practice was about. It is always about line, where it takes us and how we get there.
Another factor was that I started to be troubled by arthritis in my thumbs, which made it difficult to complete my fine line drawing – so that encouraged me to move on to tape and large tape installations.
Did you come to art late?
No, I have always been creative, working mostly in pen and ink fine drawings. I worked as a PA, some of my employers were very understanding and I would use their walls as galleries.
I gained my qualifications later in life; the art ‘A’ level at 40, and Fine Art BA at 67 from the University of Northampton. I embarked on my degree after being made redundant, encouraged by my daughter as a great opportunity to experiment, learn and gain more insight into the business side of the art world.
How would you describe the spectrum of your work?
As well as working on large scale pieces, I take the original concepts into small, individual tape pieces as well as screen and photographic prints working as a Print Fellow at University of Northampton. I am now also working in thread developing studies of colour, so move from working in tape on walls to needles and thread. One extreme to another.
Tell us a little about the process of your work.
When I do the tape installations, I never know what I’m going to do. I don’t have the concept in my head beforehand – it’s spontaneous.
There’s more planning for other types of work such as the prints and thread work.
Everything takes concentration and endeavour.
Who has inspired you?
Agnes Martin, who created really simple work. She worked until she was 92, using pencil and paint.
Also, Sol LeWitt, whose work included line drawings covering walls. He provided students with instructions, getting them to interpret these and produce the art.
Their simple, pared down style has influenced me – the work I used to do before was quite busy.
What motivates you to start and complete projects?
The need to keep busy. I can’t sit doing nothing. The need to get my creativity into an actual piece of work.
Do you ever run out of ideas?
No Sometimes I wish my brain would shut up and I could go and look at something and just admire it for what it is.
Do you have difficulty finishing work?
No, I just rampage through.
How has COVID-19 affected your work?
I had been very busy for four years, with University, applying for grants, putting on exhibitions. With COVID and lockdown I was forced to work at home, and everything shrunk and relaxed. I wasn’t being pressured to produce anything on time. As well as creating small screen prints, I returned to an old love of embroidery with the pieces reflecting our current situation. I have never worked with so much colour and this continues into new projects.
How has Arts Central helped you?
It has allowed me to continue experimenting with my tape work. I have been working on corridor installations at Arts Central – it is the perfect structure for my work. I have also been curating exhibitions here even though we can have no public in the building.
It also has an important social role for me, another home to go to with similar minded people.
What are your goals?
I would like to work on a larger 3D project and am currently experimenting in space at Arts Central before expanding ideas into a gallery installation possibly in 2021.
I want to develop my use of thread and am working on a series of original designs. My print work is still calling with many ideas still to be investigated.
I hope to launch my online store which will have original works, prints and textile work available for sale.
I just want to continue creating, learning and experimenting and it’s great to have a space of my own with the freedom to progress work and ideas.