“Affirmative” Jane james

30th May - 23rd June, 2018

Opening June 2, 2-4pm.

Jan Manton Art, 1/93 Fortescue Street, Spring Hill, Brisbane

The show will be opened by Hamish Sawyer.

It was 2015 when I began the series of paintings that made up the ‘Semantics’ exhibition. At that point, the legalisation of same sex marriage seemed a distant thing in Australia. As the exhibition finally went on show, it did so at a pivotal moment in Australia’s history. The coalition government announced its intention to have a voluntary postal survey on same-sex marriage legislation, to be held later that year. As I stood awaiting the announcement of the outcome of the survey on November 15, 2017, it was with no certainty at all about the outcome. With the success of the ‘Yes’ vote, I cried - along with a great number of other Australians across the breadth of the sexual and gender spectrum. It felt like a test of Australia’s maturity, one that we had passed. Finally, after all the acrimony and division, we had made a step forward. This exhibition is a celebration to mark that tentative step.

The series uses modern semaphore as the basis for a choreographed sequence.

Conceived as positive and affirming, they are a celebration of balance. The elements dance, supported but not bound by the ropes. There are no knots or ends, but rather a continuum.

Calligraphic in form, each element is as vital as another. The shadows form shapes and negative spaces, the rope winds through the visual plane. The paired sticks forming a counterpoint to the sinuous rope.

The shadows are made up of transparent overlays of colour giving them a variety of subtle hues.

The compositions have strong, theatrical lighting, and each is taken from an actual arrangement - one of my parameters was that the arrangements were physically possible, but each one was very delicately balanced, and a breeze away from collapse. The element of balance references the principle of Justice.

Signalling the word ‘equality’, the works examine layers of meaning and visual symbols, and our ability to decipher them.

The title of the exhibition is a reference to the same-sex marriage postal survey conducted in Australia in 2017, and its outcome.

Jane James March, 2018

‘E’ ‘Q’ ‘U’ ‘A’ ‘L’ ‘I’ ‘T’ ‘Y’

equality: noun

1. the state of being equal, especially in status, rights or opportunities

2. a symbolic expression of the fact that two quantities are equal; an equation.

The idea of equality is broadly considered a fundamental principle of modern democracies. Equality before the law, equal access to education and to services are generally expected by the community. And yet, not all of us can take equality for granted. And when Jane James was creating her previous exhibition 'Semantics', with a deeply personal meaning and connection, there was no sense of certainty about equality and much angst about language. The language that would be used to deny the rights of some to equal treatment, status and rights. And the arguments that some would mount to question whether others are, in fact, equal or perhaps lesser. Language is an important aspect of Jane's work. In her new series 'Affirmative' language is used even more overtly and explicitly than before, each image an individual signal or value, together creating meaning. On the surface, Jane's visual language remains the same. Precise, detailed representations of sticks and rope. Each image, a perfectly balanced composition. But the differences are deeper than the similarities. Where in ‘Semantics’ every image was a complete sentence, in ‘Affirmative’ each piece is a visual signal that forms part of a larger whole, the relationship between individual pieces assured by the continuity of rope. There is also a lighter tone to the language, the ropes and sticks more playfully arranged, pliable and rigid elements entwined but not constrained by knots. Equality would have no meaning without differences. It's self-evident that two identical entities or objects are the same, it is redundant to assert that they are equal. The concept of equality requires us to recognise differences but also to acknowledge the similarities and shared aims that demand fair and consistent treatment and equal respect. In the end, we did it. Each survey vote an individual signal, collectively creating meaning. Imperfectly, we affirmed that equal consideration, dignity and respect should be available to all of us. We brought equality a little bit closer.

Catalogue essay by

Dorota Siarkiewicz, May 2018


Synthetic polymer on linen

1067mm x 914mm

42 x 36 inches


Synthetic polymer on linen

914mm x 1016mm

40 x 36 inches


Synthetic polymer on linen

1219mm x 914mm

48 x 36 inches


Synthetic polymer on linen

1016mm x 914mm

40 x 36 inches


Synthetic polymer on linen

914mm x 1016mm

40 x. 36 inches.


Synthetic polymer on linen

914mm x 1016mm

36 x 40 inches


Synthetic polymer on linen

1118m x 914mm

44 x 36 inches


Synthetic polymer on linen

914mm x 1118mm

36 x 44 inches

The works in sequence.

Jane James, 2018.


Created By
Jane James

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