In Jane Bustin’s London studio, exquisite ceramics, and delicate gauzes insinuate themselves into her sensitive work palette, meshing with elements more easily identifiable as “painting”. The ceramics forcefully resist the current fashion for extravagant and wilfully obtuse decoration, preferring instead to speak to the understatement of Japanese Sengoku period pottery. This is reinforced by Bustin’s choices of delicate materials, their tender symbolic implications and a ceremonial approach to assembling.

And whilst Bustin’s work fundamentally behaves as painting, this integration of objects, many with an implied domesticity, not only alter their relationship to the wall but they allow for this deeper range of association and allegory with their careful blend of familiarity and ambiguity.

Small paintings on wood and canvas nestle alongside panels stretched with a variety of sheer materials. These translucent panels are only obliged to carry fragile stains and traces of pigment therefore revealing much of the architecture of the support…the skeleton beneath the skin. I thought fleetingly of Robert Irwin’s installations where columns of coloured light are seen through large translucent skins. But there is nothing systemic in Bustin’s approach whatsoever and the formalism that underpins his larger sequences of rooms is entirely absent in Bustin’s intimate and very felt works.

The dialogue between the hidden and the revealed, the substantial and intricate runs through much of her work. The notion of the concealed is reinforced when panels of differing scales and depths coalesce into larger conglomerates where only partial edges are visible. It is almost as if there is no “front” to her work – an oblique view, equally legitimate. Her use of highly polished copper panels even makes what is behind or to the side of the viewer an “aspect” of the works. The intense coloured edges spill colour onto the wall itself inviting further scrutiny from the flanks. Thus everything conspires to defeat a single pictorial viewpoint as Bustin’s work reveals itself to be driven by movement.

Bustin’s recent work The Nijinsky Project – Faun makes this explicit. A performance combining dance, composition and installation in a homage to iconic dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.  The placement of each assemblage establishes coordinates for the performance space and each element is further calibrated to the human body, or more particularly their height relates to the specifics of individual dance “positions”.

The consideration of Bustin’s selections, the fine ceramics and porcelain, the diaphanous materials and the blushes and traces of pigment, combine to serve as triggers for feeling, even a nostalgia for material and for touch and to elicit our own sensitivities.

Seldom do we encounter amidst the clamour and theatre of much contemporary work, such sensuality and modesty as Bustin’s work contains. For this reason alone it seems even more vital – not that she is obliged to swim against this tide but this coalition of refined tactility and material is key to resuscitating our sensory capacity.

In 2019 Jane Bustin completed a residency in Latvia at The Mark Rothko Memorial Fund.

– Andrew Jensen