“I often go for evening walks and observe the sunset, the sky, and think about how we are all spinning through the universe. I aim to convey a sense of how we are all alone somehow” (J. Harris)

When first approached, Jane Harris’ works convey a deep sense of calm. Ordered compositions show peaceful geometric images painted through flawless brush strokes and colour combinations, following a meticulously precise technique, which results in an hypnotic envision of the artist’s gesture. This unique visual power enables a strong connection between viewer and painting, as abstract figures become an actual portal to emotional exploration.

Originally from Dorset, England, Harris had a quite dynamic artistic journey, training in London, between Slade School of Art and Goldsmiths, and traveling through France and Japan to enrich her passion for nature and garden design. The artist’s reverence for the natural world and its movements constituted the very base of her artistic language. Indeed, her capability to contrast the bidimensional surface of the canvas, as well as to challenge the flatness quality of geometrical shapes, all start from the observation of natural elements, the way they communicate between each other, and the way we exist within them. Vibrancy, dynamism, depth and perspective are all facets that characterise Harris’ artistic expression.

Jane Harris, Fleet, 2019, Oil on wood, 50 x50cm. Photo credit: Simon Gales. Courtesy of Jane Harris Estate and CLOSE ltd.

As suggested by the title ‘Ellipse’, the study of the elliptic figure is central to Jane Harris’ artistic language, and in fact it can be found on almost every drawing and painting of the artist. What intrigued Harris so much about this shape is its boundless potential for transformation, its shifting quality specifically. Being a geometric figure with two focal points, the ellipse has a dual nature and an infinite permutation potential. Besides, when represented, it can be perceived as both a flat shape and a circle in perspective, blurring the boundaries between surface and depth.

“(the ellipse) is playing, it’s doing those two things simultaneously. It flips between being one thing and another, and for me that’s like a perfect form”

In Harris's paintings, contradictory states coexist harmoniously, reflecting the multifaceted nature of existence. Firm yet fluid, flat yet deep, open yet closed—the contrasting elements in her work embody the tension between opposites. This duality extends to the viewer's experience, as Harris's paintings simultaneously reach out and pull back, inviting contemplation and introspection while at the same time questioning themes of change, movement and contradiction inherent in the human experience.

Jane Harris, Captivators, 2014, Oil on canvas, 250 x 250cm
Courtesy of the Jane Harris Estate and CLOSE ltd.

Inside the main exhibition room, three large scale diptychs are shown next to one another. Each of them showing two almost identical paintings, displayed one upside down in respect to the other. So different yet similar, each couple of works have the power to trigger and question perception. They all invite for attentive observation and active interaction: thus to stand in front of them is not enough, instead requiring movement within space, change of perspective, and closer comparison.

“An important feature of my oil paintings is the invitation to walk around the paintings and see them from different angles in order to see how the light affects the individual colours and their inter-relationship.”

Consequently, the pivotal quality of Harris lies in the performative nature of her work. Each painting invites engagement, prompting a dynamic interaction as they are compelled to move closer, step back, and observe from various angles. As light plays across the surface, reflections shift and mutate, following the brushstrokes that define the artwork. This interactive experience animates the paintings, empowering the viewer in their encounter. This iconic mark derives from Harris's masterful techniques, which have become integral to her recognizable style among other artists working with geometry and color. The combination of vibrant hues, enhanced by the use of metallic and iridescent pigments, and combined with the layering technique, results in paintings that convey a tactile texture and that pulsate with life. And the sinuous brushstrokes all over the scalloped elliptical shapes, drive the viewer into the painting's realm through a mesmerizing journey able to enrich the sensory experience.

Jane Harris, Buff and Tan, 2005, Oil on canvas, 152.5 x 152.3cm
Courtesy of the Jane Harris Estate and CLOSE ltd.

Just as a portal serves as a gateway to another realm or dimension, Harris's portrayal of the elliptic figure could be seen as a conduit to a space beyond our immediate perception.

In her art, Jane Harris doesn't merely capture the elliptic form as a static object; rather, she imbues it with a sense of dynamic potential, suggesting that it serves as a passage to a realm of deeper meaning or alternate reality. Much like stepping through a portal transports one to a different place or time, encountering Harris's elliptic figures prompts viewers to engage with themes of transformation, transition, and transcendence.

Through her use of color, texture, and form, Harris creates an atmosphere that invites contemplation and exploration. Consequently, viewers may feel drawn to enter into the world she has crafted, allowing themselves to be transported through the elliptic portal into a realm where the boundaries between the tangible and the intangible blur and where the visual experience shifts into a journey of the imagination. A journey that invites us to question our perceptions of reality and discover new possibilities lurking just beyond the confines of the elliptic form as it is conceived. 'Ellipse' at Frac MÉCA in Bordeaux, is on display until June 2024.

“I do not see my work as purely abstract. As well as my concerns with the perception of colour and light, the formal, geometric configurations are a vehicle for a profound emotional response.”

Jane Harris, The Fugitives, 2008, oil on canvas, 213 cm x 193 cm
Courtesy of the Jane Harris Estate and CLOSE ltd.