It is a pleasure to present in this exhibition a set of landscapes by Jill Swarbrick-Banks that may be unlike any landscapes you have seen before. Whether classical or romantic, sublime, or picturesque, landscape painting has contributed significantly to the history of British art, in one form or another. After the Spanish American philosopher George Santayana stated that the English are governed by an inner atmosphere, ‘the weather in their souls’, Kenneth Clark proceeded to argue that English weather and its soft luminous atmosphere have had a determining influence on English painting, poetry and even English thought.

Jill Swarbrick-Banks has not been confined to England in her choice of landscapes to paint and, though weather may be an ingredient in some of these pictures, agency has also been gifted her through the play of memory, by the inspiration of certain kind of music, and by her deep fascination with the properties of paint. Sometimes the atmosphere created is both luminous but also disturbing. It feels as if we have stepped off the familiar path of landscape painting and entered a new zone.

– Professor Frances Spalding, Chair of Clare Hall Art Committee

About the artist:
Jill Swarbrick-Banks is a painter working in abstraction, portraiture and landscape. She shares the following biographical overview:

‘The exhibition at Clare Hall enables me to show some paintings from my recent series, Transcendental Landscapes. These works are inspired by the landscape and sounds of the Dyfi Valley in Snowdonia National Park, Wales – a wild, beautiful, untouched and ‘thin’ place that affects me as completely otherworldly.

Born in Raynes Park, London, on 15 August 1959, I was seven when my family moved to Oxshott, Surrey, in 1966. Here I grew up. After leaving school I worked mainly in retail (record shops). My father was a self-employed Military Cartographer and I spent many hours watching him draw maps in his annexed studio.

After reading the biography by Diana Souhami on the English twentieth-century Society painter Hannah Gluckstein, known as ‘Gluck’, I was so intrigued by her success as a painter that I began taking private lessons to learn with a local artist called Ms Bobby Smith. The various skills she taught gave me enough confidence to apply to art school, immediately after I chanced upon a notice in Clerkenwell Library announcing a new art course in London. I decided to apply there and then.

In September 1986 I enrolled on the General Art and Design B/Tec Higher National Diploma course at the City and East London College, Sydney Street, E1 where I chose Fine Art Painting as my final discipline. I graduated with a distinction. By now I knew that I wanted to devote my life to becoming a professional painter. My partner at this time was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and it was decided to move to the city of Groningen in the North East of the Netherlands. This was partly for my Dutch partner’s increasing health requirements and for me to move up into Higher Education and attend the Art School: Kunst Academie Minerva in Groningen. It was here in 1992 that I obtained a Baccalaureate Degree in Fine Art Painting.

For some years I enjoyed good relations with galleries in Groningen, where I exhibited in solo and in group exhibitions – most notably with the oldest gallery in the Netherlands: Galerie Pictura. Despite this encouraging start to work as a painter, further interruptions in my life caused a necessary break in my career as an artist.

In 1998 I repatriated to England and remarried. We moved to mid-Wales to be more in the countryside. However, partly to refresh my ideas, I went back to art school at The School of Art, Aberystwyth University, to do a Masters. I graduated with a distinction in Fine Art Painting in 2019.

In addition I was offered an artist’s residency at Coventry Cathedral where, although I created several abstract pieces, the proposed exhibition was shelved due to a change of management. However my chief remit had been to produce a portrait of their Dean, the Very Reverend John Irvine (2002-12). This portrait hangs in the Provost’s vestry at the Cathedral.

Oil paint continues to fascinate me because it is such a demanding and expressive medium. I continue to study the work and techniques of J.M.W. Turner as I find his later oils in particular offer sublime qualities.’

Useful information
Accessibility details: full step-free access, accessible toilet, lift. For accessibility queries, please email our Porters.
Queries can be directed to Fiona Blake, Secretary of Clare Hall Art Committee.