Artist interview: Jane Oldfield

‘I have been working on the theme of flying for over 10 years’


What is your art practice?

I am a painter, but I have been working on the theme of flying for over 10 years now and this has made me extend my practice, using photography, cutouts into mobiles, and performance. Also I feel art should be about more than just about itself – so I am not happy to lose all images and go for pure abstraction.


Who or what influences your work?

My uncle was a photo-reconnaissance spitfire pilot in WW2 and left me his flying logbook and medals. Also I have been trying to learn gliding at the Booker Gliding Club near High Wycombe for 5 years – to do this effectively you have to combine physical co-ordination and understanding the theory of how flying is possible in the changing air. The fear is also good for my creativity.

Getting into the sky also increases your awareness of what’s up, down and around and the universe – the infinitely large and the infinitely small and how modern physics is bringing them closer and closer together.


Which artist do you and wish you could have been?

I admire many painters and wish I could have been them – usually it is the latest I have seen!

But there are 3 contemporary pieces which I particularly wish I had made

Fiona Banner’s ‘Harrier’ & 2 videos shown at the Tate 2010, Mark Wallinger’s ‘Threshold to the Kingdom’ & Hiraki Sawa’s ‘Dwelling


Is there a piece of work you wish you had never made?     

I have been painting for a long time and most these I would like to improve radically, but I don’t wish I never made them even if a bonfire of many would be appropriate.

But I significantly underestimated the power of the wind on Aldeburgh Beach on September 2014, and hence produced a piece of work which was dangerous – my cutouts of aluminium sheets flew off their wires as the small attachment holes enlarged with the power of the wind. But I have a photograph that I am proud of.


If time and money were no object what would you make?

I would provide everyone with a zero gravity experience so we could all try to fly.


What would you change about the art school system now, apart from the fees?

It is a long time since I was at art school – but as a member of the Hornsey College of Art in 1968 I was very concerned about the improvement of art education then. But overall the most important thing I learnt at Hornsey was about the basic politics of power.

Looking at what seems to be the results of going to art school recently, I like the way students learn to talk about their work (I have great difficulty in doing this). But I do not like the pretentious ‘curatorial’ form of art speak many seem to be taught to use.

Jane’s website