Janet Nathan

Near Paros


Not on display

Janet Nathan 1938 – 2020
Wood, plywood, iron nails, sand, stone grit, oil paint and resin
Object: 1680 × 1840 × 120 mm
Purchased 2013


Near Paros 1985 is an irregular five-sided wall relief made from a combination of fragments of found elements – including a section of a blue door – and resin. The construction has the appearance of a coastal landscape seen from the air, and the large brownish resin section gives the impression of water. This is reinforced by the title, Paros being one of the Cycladic Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. The resin, each of the found objects, and each of the driftwood fragments – which combine to form the work – brings its own subtleties of texture and colour. In this instance Nathan’s response to the particular landscape of the Mediterranean is reflected through her intuitive use of colour, which plays a central and expressive role in her practice. During the period when Near Paros was made, the idea of portraying the effects of sunlight played an increasing role in her constructions, combined with an ambition to portray a sense of stillness and light. This is reflected by a heightened use of colour and the introduction of turquoise and deep blues that is characteristic of her work in the 1980s.

In its combination of wood and resin, Near Paros reflects a key shift in Nathan’s practice away from a reliance on the found object (in works such as Zeloso 1979, Tate T13889) towards works that are a composite of found, made and painted shapes with which she creates precise, formal constructions. Nathan’s sensibilities are affected by her direct experience of the natural world. As historian Mel Gooding has noted: ‘The capacity to integrate elements of a particular landscape, of a place remembered, and sometimes associated with particular journeys or events, into an over-all design that is evocative without being in any way purely descriptive, is what makes Nathan’s later work continuously surprising and exciting.’ (Gooding 1997, p.10.)

Throughout her practice, Nathan has made constructions from a diverse range of materials, including found objects and driftwood, and the coastline has been an important source, both of materials and of subject matter. Her work draws in the main from her personal experience of landscape, in particular seascapes or river views, most often of the River Thames in London but also extending to the Nile and the Amazon. As her titles suggest, there is often an implied sense of the pictorial in these apparently abstract painted constructions, a representation of things seen and remembered. However they are never simply descriptive, but rather work through reference and allusion. Near Paros is the summation of Nathan’s experiences of visiting the Greek islands that year. The work was made at her studio in Wapping, East London, overlooking the Thames, which was a further source of inspiration.

Further reading
Mary Rose Beaumont, Janet Nathan: Coloured Constructions 1978–1988, exhibition catalogue, Warwick Arts Trust, Warwick 1988.
Bryan Robertson, Janet Nathan: Painted Constructions, exhibition catalogue, Reed’s Wharf Gallery, London 1995.
Mel Gooding, Janet Nathan: Constructions 1979–1997, exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, London 1997.

Andrew Wilson
March 2013

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