I was lucky enough to meet Jane Samuels and her fascinating work at Manchester’s Twestival, a charity networking event bringing together local artists and digital enthusiasts. Her 3D creations captured the attention of many attendees, who were browsing the various artwork and interactive stands.
Tell us a little bit about your background and qualifications…
I’m 35, and from Manchester. I’ve been drawing and making for as long as I can remember: my earliest memories are of drawing with my Granddad. I was lucky enough to go to a small college in the Hills of Pendle that at the time, was massively geared towards the Arts, under the leadership of Peter Hall, an inspirational and driven art tutor and ceramicist. Spurred on from there, I attended university in Manchester and Salford to gain my BA Creative Arts, and MA Contemporary Fine Arts. Aware of the importance of artists who shaped my education, I also gained a teaching qualification, and having previously taught in prisons, I now tutor university students who experience learning difficulties and mental health barriers, as well as continuing my Art practice from my Manchester studio.
Who inspires your work?
My work draws from the work of the Situationists and Psychogeography: the study of the urban/built environment and the people/events/politics/history/geography/geology that shape it. I love the walking theory and writing of Guy Debord, Will Self and Robert Mcfarlane. I also love the experiential installations of Olafur Eliasson, and the photography and film of Bill Viola. I’ve applied the principles of psychogeography to rural landscape exploration and to Urbex: the name given to the exploration of abandoned buildings. I’m extremely political: I believe in freedom and equality, and use my work to explore those ideals. Much of my practice involves trespass, the reopening of closed footpaths, and an exploration of who holds the power/owns the ground beneath our feet.
What are the explanations behind your work?
The Abandoned Buildings Project is an ongoing exploration of abandoned houses, churches, hospitals and asylums. I visits these buildings to create theatrical, often unsettling photographic images which explore subjective narratives, illegality and dispossession.
I take with me a cast of costumed characters: deer, giant rabbits and horned men, based on the Pooka: shape shifting spirits from Irish folklore, who were said to embody nature and to appear when humans were absent. In these abandoned spaces, overtaken with ferns and inhabited by foxes, the Pooka are given free reign of the buildings. Responding to found objects (writing, photographs and personal artefacts) and the implied narratives of former inhabitants, I create scenes that are often disconcerting, and which allude to the tension between man and nature, and to the stark absence of humanity, in a man-made environment.
Terrain: Anatomical Landscapes is a series of drawings derived from walks around the UK. My most recent line of enquiry, the work draws inspiration from over two years of walking, spanning (to date) over 1,000 miles. Walks are documented in real time using photography, drawings and writing. This research then informs detailed pencil drawings that each represent a single walk in in a single location. This process creates narrative images that explore the relationship between humans and our outdoor environment. By building elements of human anatomy into landscape, I aim to underline the deep connection between us and the land, as well as the fact that we are often restricted from entering vast areas of it. I regularly find ancient rights of way that have been blocked by farmers and land owners, and re-open these routes in the process of the work.
What are your greatest achievements so far?
I continue to exhibit and sell work both in the UK and abroad. Most recently I have exhibited in Perth, Australia, showing work based around my travels in the rain forests of Costa Rica. I’ve developed a good online following that has led to interviews in magazines, book inclusions and work with the BBC and Al Jazeera.
What are your future goals and ambitions?
The aim is to keep working, and to keep exploring. I don’t believe in charging extortionate prices for art, and I like to leave work in the streets, for everyone, where possible. There’ll be a lot more of that in 2014.