In Conversation ~ Briana Jamieson

Interviewed by Eliza Blamey

Environments and locations have a considerable influence on your palette and poetry. What particularly in Pōneke inspired the hues in Wishbone II that you found here and what aspects did you borrow from Jane Paul?

The sunsets in the Watching the Sky paintings are from photos I took out my bedroom window over the course of last winter. When making this second series I had a strong feeling that there needed to be orange sunset paintings. The first Wishbone series captured a lot of the deep green, muddy, watery side of Ebbs & Floods. The colour orange and the warm romantic glow of sunsets appeared many times in the book too and I wanted to capture those feelings and colours in paintings. So the original colours come from Jane’s words, describing what she was seeing and experiencing in Ireland and Europe. Sunsets, Fanta, clementines, wildflowers. When I saw these sunsets myself over winter it reminded me of Jane’s words and the colours she described.  

The painting To Love started off as a green grass field with wildflowers and a blue sky. It then turned into an impression of many of the sunsets I have seen over the sea in Lyall Bay by my home. The essence and feeling of this painting is inspired by some of Jane’s words, that describe experiences of both Jane and I and how we were oceans away from each other across the world during this time. And the themes and feelings of love by the ocean that run through the book. 
“across the sea, daffodils are blooming and her heart is breaking. I can hear it over the city hum, the wide water crashing between us.” - excerpt from The Collapse, Jane Paul



The painting Feels Like Home is an impression of Wellington bush covered hills in the evening. Some of Jane’s poems were written while she still lived in Wellington and then some of her poems written in Europe talk about missing home. “This almost feels like home” - excerpt from ‘Venus Rising’ by Jane Paul. Once I’d painted this painting it reminded me of a certain part of bush covered hill on the Hataitai side of Mt Victoria, down from the lookout - abstract visual memories from years ago. I remember Jane talking about hearing a recording of native birds taken at Zealandia and her longing for the feeling of home. 

The watery greens and browns and water lily paintings are all very much to me the essence of Jane’s writing in Ebbs & Floods impressions of her time in Ireland. The book seems to be full of the deep watery colours, plants growing in slow moving countryside water, rain and mud. Jane also describes the sun and moon a lot throughout her poems and the two water lily paintings are in some way connected to that as well - one opening up in sunlight, the other - gentle moonlight flowers


The swans are an incredibly distinctive symbol of your Wishbone collection, what do they symbolise to you?  


While working on her collection of poetry, Jane was living by the sea in a small town in Ireland. A rocky shore, streams winding through deep green grass. Swans gliding along the waterways and across inlets at sunset. Jane’s poems describe many of the beautiful natural environments she was surrounded by at the time and swans appear throughout the book. During her time in Ireland while we worked together on publishing the book, Jane would send me poems and photos and describe to me what she was seeing and experiencing. Swans kept appearing. There was something so peaceful, poetic, romantic about these creatures that seemed to be gliding through her world. Jane’s poems are full of water and sunsets and the swans existed in both these environments. “I think about white swans shifting with the tide and I have forgotten what phase the moon is in”. - excerpt from Turning Tides, Jane Paul.


You seem to capture a beautiful sense of harmony with your subjects, a moment of hesitation or stillness. Do you work from live subjects or often from photographs? Are they real scenes or interpretations of the world around you? 
I work from photographs I have taken, or others have taken. A mixture of moments I have experienced and inspiration from others experiences. As well as from colours I feel, create, imagine and come across. For the Wishbone series, the book the paintings are inspired by has an essence to it - colours, feelings and imagery come to my mind in relation to that book. This is what I then formed into paintings. I would collect together reference imagery that captured parts of what this essence in my mind was.
There is a subtle rhythm in your exhibitions, a dynamic relationship between works; a set of sky-scapes, a collection of sunflowers, a juxtaposition of angels & devils.
Is there a moment when you are creating that you feel it demands polarity, a duality of sense. Or do you plan to create these paintings with the intention of multiple renditions?
Perhaps colour is one of the main things that draws me to paint. I enjoy painting multiple versions of similar forms and subjects as I imagine all these different colours and feelings of a scene first, and then want to try them all out in paintings. Often after painting a subject I’m inspired to paint something similar, I think: what would a deep green watery version of this be like? Each painting I make leads me forward on to the next. All feel in relation to each other as I explore using paint and colours and creating different forms with them. I really enjoy the feeling of the way my paintbrush moves when I paint a swan or plant. The natural curve, drape and point of the shapes. Swans, sunflower leaves and drooping angel’s trumpets flowers - their shapes are so satisfying to paint. So when I come across that feeling I feel drawn to keep painting those shapes.
How did you arrive at oil paint? was it always your paint of choice? and what have you found is the most challenging or rewarding about working with a slow drying medium.

I love oil paint so much. The smooth texture of it. Similar to the tactile experiences when working with wood, clay, or cooking; working with oil paint has a physical quality to it that I enjoy. The paint is a substance that I can mix and move around and create forms with. 

As a child, at school, and at university I mostly used watercolour, acrylic, coloured pencils and ink. It wasn’t until after art school when I had my first solo show at Toi Pōneke Gallery that I decided to try using oil paint. Once I started I fell in love with it. The deep colours, the smoothness I could create with my brushstrokes, was so special in oil paint and not something I could find in acrylic or watercolour. 

I mix my colours with a palette knife on a large piece of glass, adding linseed oil from a little glass bottle. I mix all my colours for a painting before starting the painting. The process of mixing and finding the right colours takes a long time and then once I have them I can relax into losing myself in the painting process. I love having the whole day to work with these colours before they dry. (In the summer they often dry over night. In the winter it can take 3 days to a week for the paint to dry). I love in the winter being able to go back to a painting the next day and keep working on it while it’s still wet. The smoothness I can get from two colours of wet paint next to each other is very special and different to what I can achieve with a wet colour next to a dry colour. All about the way I move my brush and get the edges of forms to interact with each other. Sometimes in winter certain colours (like one particular brown I mixed) have taken an unexpectedly long time to dry - over a week. And that is something that I have learnt to set aside time for. 




View Wishbone II by Briana Jamieson