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My work has been a lifelong journey. As a child I developed a deep kinship with animals, which has helped me to have empathy with the life force, and to express the complex experience of what it is to be here as a flesh and blood being.

Since my earliest drawings in the 1980’s I have been engaged in a developing interaction between the animal nature and the human psyche. Entities interrelate, one being becoming another being. Mysterious and intimate characters act within an inner landscape, similar to dreams. I work to experience the mystery, purity and sensibility/spirit of the animal nature, something we often overlook as humans, as we live in a technology driven, industrialized society.

A myth which involves both knowledge and innocence, darkness and light, has always been central to my work. The myth is intuitively known in my body, and not based on recorded mythology. I discover a world within ourselves that is spiritually connected to animals. The “Other” has been a constant presence, reflecting a connection to the divine element in nature.

I have worked in various mediums, but always return to pastel on rag paper. This is because touch is integral to the message and expression. The use of pastels enables me to caress the surface with my hands. Beings emerge and evolve through the touching and rubbing of the surface. Coming from the body's sensual/spiritual desires, felt in the bones and cells, a metamorphosis happens as I caress the surface.

Simplifying the recent paintings and sculpture to portrait-like heads has enabled their essence to emerge as an intimate connection. In early 2006 I began working on wax pieces to be cast in bronze. As I worked, I found that the beeswax was alive and vulnerable. The wax has a living kind of strength, and its physicality also has a kind of "mortal" quality.

Recurring themes are both autobiographical and universal, having to do with grief, joy, pain, death, rebirth, rejection, humor, brutality, sensitivity, anger, love, identity, power and vulnerability. I identify with the animals in my work, and feel as if their bodies were my own.

Since 1978, I have spoken and sung in “Animal Tongues,” which has been performed and included in installations. “Animal Tongues.” acts as a bridge to the world beneath the surface. It expresses the emotions and the mystery of the animal nature, and enables me to live and see clearly.   

Jan Harrison




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