For this first article of the year, Screen Printing artist Janine Saul shares her practice.
Janine was born in London, where she is still based, and studied Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art. There, she discovered Screen Printing which she was drawn to fusing with her fine art skills. During her degree, Janine did an exchange programme in New York at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and was taught by Linda Dailey, “an amazing teacher,” who opened up Janine’s whole world to Screen Printing, inspiring her to find out more about the process and develop her own expression within the technique. Since then, Janine’s practice has been largely self-directed, finding unconventional ways of manipulating a screen, creating resists and developing dye formulas to produce outcomes never seen before through the Screen Printing process.
Janine describes herself as a nomadic artist, particularly as place is important to her artistic process, traveling to make little pockets of home in many different locations. She has exhibited in many of these places, most recently at the Villa Lena in Italy on their Artist-in-Residence programme.
In this conversation, Janine speaks eloquently about how the Screen Printing process not only informs her work, but also her life as a whole. Read on to learn how meditation, traveling, boundaries, and the boundless influence Janine’s unique practice.
Where do you work? What makes this place important for your creative process?
I enjoy working outdoors the most when it’s possible. I find that having my space integrated in nature is really important because I see the world, and everything that exists, as this huge reflection of all that is going on inside each of us. There’s this beautiful symbiosis happening. I’m always trying to find outdoor spaces to work in; for example, in Italy last year I found this amazing outdoor space in an abandoned town. It was pure magic to work completely isolated with the sounds of the birds, and to allow nature to take its own course on my work, such as how the colours and recipes of the dyes were manipulated by the weather conditions. What I’m trying to express through my work comes from what is going on around and inside me. Working in spaces that are integrated in nature fuels my energy in a completely different way: the colours, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the language, the people… everything is so influential in what comes out of me and what comes into me, a symbiotic dance.
I also have enjoyed working in studio spaces in cities, such as New York and London. It’s a different expression I guess, as environment can be anything, anywhere. I notice that my work in cities is a lot more aggressive and harsher. I can see it through the colours, tones and textures. However, for my own being and happiness, I definitely prefer spaces that are integrated with greenery.
"Working in spaces that are integrated in nature fuels my energy in a completely different way: the colours, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the language, the people… a symbiotic dance."
How would you describe your creative process? Do you use certain mediums/techniques to develop your creative ideas?
My process is definitely led by Screen Printing: the idea of something that exists within its own boundaries, but can also be unlimited and boundless at the same time, presents a really interesting juxtaposition. Art is unlimited, you can create anything with anything, it’s all art! The thing that I love the most about the process of Screen Printing is that it has its limitations and boundaries, and then within that there is so much to explore and play with. It will change, warp and switch, almost creating its own process within itself. I like these confines as it makes my brain focus with a sharpness and also helps me enter into a meditative-like space.
The process is Screen Printing but it exists as something larger than itself. How can I apply this idea of limitless boundaries to other areas in my life? How far can I take creativity within the boundaries? There is a playing with this perspective, even in relationships with others, or making clothes and food… There are so many things that have boundaries, but dancing within them creates unlimited possibilities.
I try to be as experimental as possible. I often look towards movement and gesture, and I’m very influenced by the senses and the physical experience of the world. Feeling the senses and where I am at the particular moment in time is an explorative part of my process. For example, sometimes the movements and sensations are angry, and the work produced is also angry; other times it is soft, beautiful and delicate. My process is very sensation based.
Photography also plays a part. I use it as means to communicate ideas or the expression of what the prints are trying to say. Once the prints have come off the table, having been worked on, steamed, ironed out, and hung out into nature, they become alive as that’s when you can see how much they reflect the environment or moment in time. After creating a series of pieces, I use photography to capture this freedom and expression. It’s a frame of one moment but within that so much is being said. I use film photography which is also part of the process of working with something that has its limitations, and through this it requires you to have a serious presence with what you’re doing. Again, you have to make the most out of something that has its restrictions.
Do you have any rituals that help with this process of creating work?
A really important ritual for me is meditation. In the morning, it allows me to tap in and be in-tune with myself and the space I am in, and bring recognition to this. Also in its unconventional sense, making art work is such a deep meditation because you get absolutely lost within what you are creating. I notice that if my mind is racing or running away with many thoughts, the work I produce is not reflective of my truth as it has been led by the mind. When I’m deeply present, the shapes and colours present themselves, and it becomes really effortless and symbiotic in its most natural essence.
I used to call these “magic moments,” moments where I would just be lost in my work and everything would effortlessly happen. Then there were moments where I would overthink and the process wasn’t flowing in the same way. I started to recognise these differences and through this, I realised that it was meditation and presence that brings me to the effortless moments. This shaped the ritual or practice of meditation that I consciously do when I want to get into the flow of work.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have been making so much art work back-to-back for the past few years so at the moment I’m taking time to stop and think about what I’m doing and how I want to share it with the world. I have piles of work that I would love to see in spaces where it’s meant to exist in. I suppose my focus is on the business side, rather than creating, which is the harder side that no one really teaches you how to do!
I’m also working on some new dye recipes and new colour schemes. I’m going to Brazil early this year which is exciting! They have some beautiful plants there so I’m planning to get lost in the pigment world and use nature to its fullest power. Making work with new colours in a new space will be really exciting!
What does “sense of place” mean to you? Is this concept present in your work?
For me, sense of place is to find it inside of you; finding that place inside that always feels like home and that you can always return to. This whole Earth, everywhere, is our sense of place. I find it crazy that we have this idea of separation of people being from certain places, with borders, walls, and nationalities. The concept of oneness is a part of my practice as I truly believe that we are all, and everything is, one and home therefore is, and can be, anywhere. A sense of place is being able to find my place anywhere I go.
It’s an interesting practice to be able to integrate and see a reflection of yourself in everything everywhere you go. This practice of connection takes away the idea of having such an individualised identity. One of the reasons I love going to new places is the discovery of what happens to oneself when you are there: the people you meet, the conversations you have, the new information you gain all feeds into creating this feeling that you also feel at home. For me, a sense of place is holding this knowing of oneness inside and being able to reflect it out anywhere you go. It’s a practice within itself.
"I find it crazy that we have this idea of separation of people being from certain places, with borders, walls, and nationalities. The concept of oneness is a part of my practice as I truly believe that we are all, and everything is, one."
Do you have a message that you hope to give to the world?
I’m always revaluating the message that I wish to express. The message that I’m coming to or that has been coming to me at the moment and that I wish to share is that our whole beings are welcome in the light. Everyone is welcome to fully express every aspect of themselves, whether it’s the good, the bad, the light, the dark, the old, the new, the ancestral, the modern, the family, the self… whatever it may be, everyone is welcome to express this in the light. I believe this is the most authentic way to really see how we are as humans and what we are experiencing, and how to share this to create connections with the realisation that there is no separation. Especially at this current moment in time that we are living in, where there is so much separation that is causing chaos and disharmony, this is such a grounding message for me. Every part of our being, our whole self, is welcome in the light and everyone should be able to express themselves in their most authentic way.
Janine's Book List:
I have a huge stack of books but I’m not a religious reader. I like to write, which I tend to do in moments when I’ve picked up a book to read but start writing instead!
1. Words Behind the Eyes
My friend wrote this really interesting book about words: how our words affect our reality, and using words to bring a vision to light.
2. The Power of Healing with Hands by Rajendar Menen
This book was interesting for my practice as I’m always working with my hands, and the hands are powerful tools when working so much with sensations.
3. Women who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
This is a book I really want to read! So many amazing women I’ve met have recommended this book to me so it’s definitely on my list.
Images 1, 2, 3, 4: Artist's Own
Image 5: Eve Tagny