To hold a thing, whether with our hand or our gaze is to capture a feeling, giving meaning to the object, not the subject. – Jane Bustin 2019                                          

Ezra Pound said that “glance is the enemy of vision” and whilst I am disinclined to argue with his insights and though, in essence I agree with his sentiment, I am not convinced all glances ought to be judged equally. 

There is something in the fugitive glance that may reveal a greater truth, a visual veracity that is assembled through glimpses, each with a different complexion, made at a different moment, felt in a different way, seen with differing consciousness.

Jane Bustin’s paintings seem to encourage us to “glance”. Their composition, their material range, their attention to edge, their use of reflective materials such as copper and aluminium lends perception a contingency that resists static vision. These glances do not signal inattention, rather they invite a heightened if unconscious sensitivity and ultimately, contemplation.

French poet Francis Ponge, whose works have “stirred” Jane Bustin’s and whose elevation of the simple objects in our world – a plant, a shell, soap – revealed the hidden relationship between the inner life of human beings and the world of objects. 

Bustin’s works take their titles from early 20th century modernist literature and poetry – Djuna Barnes, Jean Rhys as well as Ponge, – “a sensory language rather than a dictatorial narrative”.

Poet Robert Bly wrote of Ponge “It is as if the object itself, a stump or an orange, has links with the human psyche, and the unconscious provides material it would not give if asked directly. The unconscious passes into the object and returns.”
This exchange between the unconscious and the object feels to me to be at the heart of Bustin’s exquisite works. Her modestly scaled paintings feel as if they were assembled from a constellation of modest materials but whose conflation creates new unimagined sensations and feelings. 

Bustin suggests that “the surfaces experience a range of intimate handling techniques, sanding, brushing, dying, burning, ironing, masking, stroking, dripping … over a period of time the experience between the maker and the material is co-dependent creating a history of conversations, considerations, mistakes and solutions.”

For Ponge, all objects “yearn to express themselves, and they mutely await the coming of the word so that they may reveal the hidden depths of their being,” Clearly for Bustin all materials yearn to express themselves too. Rather than waiting for the “word” Bustin adjusts and aligns matter directly, announcing new perceptions. 

Bustin’s feeling for material is highly nuanced. In The Feeling of Things there are unexpected and beautiful juxtapositions of colour and surface, dualities of hard and soft, reflective and absorbent, face and flank, are resolved within a pliable geometry that allows her to explore matter and its interrelationship in the way that a scientist might were they in search of poetry via empiricism.

Jane Bustin is currently in Latvia, completing a residency at the The Mark Rothko Memorial Fund.