Interview with Artist Jane Perry

22 May 2024

Jane Perry is an independent Wellington artist known for her elegant, graphic and lively work. After ten years studying and working in London, she returned to New Zealand in 1979 and has forged a career as a painter and illustrator, racking up an impressive number of award nominations and exhibitions along the way.

Her paintings evoke her personal stake in her subject, whether the inspiration is a mood, music, politics, memories or conversation. Her understanding of composition is unmistakable.

I've gotten to know Jane quite well through sitting next to her at NZSO concerts, and when she launched a new website to display and promote her art, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for me to share her and her work.

How would you describe your own art?

This is a difficult question which I am often asked. I suppose I would say I have an eclectic attitude to subject matter. I feel free to draw or paint any subject or idea. My work has evolved over many years and is very varied in medium, size, colour and style. Many influences have informed my endeavours.

Your work has become less representational, more abstract in recent times. What led to that shift?

Whereas for a long time most of my work was mainly representational as a consequence of looking at the outside world and rendering it in my own way, I now tend to look inwards and respond to thoughts and feelings. I’m not sure what led to that gradual shift, but it is wonderfully liberating, more personal and often fun.

I’m very happy in the zone between the two ways of working where the abstraction intimates the representational and where the viewer plays their part in the interpretation of the work.


Meander, acrylic on canvas, 503x400mm, 2021

What is your favourite medium?

I love drawing for its own sake and of course it can be very important as the basis for painting where ideas and scale can be worked out.

Although I have worked in most media, I usually prefer acrylic for most subjects; it suits my way of working. After using it for so many years I know how it behaves.

A lot of your work seems to involve exploring shapes, often across multiple pieces of work. What draws you to a certain outline?

I know my some of my work has been described as haptic. Movement too is important to me. One drawing or painting often leads to another with a question to be resolved or a challenge met. I want to break new ground rather than repeat myself. Repetition can be a trap when one type of work sells well and the temptation could be not to move on.

I don’t have viewers in mind when I’m working.

Shall we Dance.jpg

Shall We Dance, acrylic on canvas, 503x 400mm, 2020

What advice would you give a young artist just starting a career?

If you are convinced you must follow an artistic career it is worth fighting for. It won’t be easy.

When I left school options for women were very limited. My parents were of the generation that lived through the Depression. They insisted I get a ‘meal ticket’ so art went on the back burner for several years. It was a struggle to balance art with earning a living, but I managed to have success as a freelance textile designer in London, selling principally to Heals and Libertys. It was not until later life that I was able to devote myself to drawing and painting. At that stage two dealer galleries wanted to exhibit half my work each and I decided to go it alone and hold my own shows. I think there are pros and cons to both ways of getting your work seen.

What’s next for you?

I have no shortage of ideas and want to do good work. I haven’t finished yet!

Where can people find your work?

My work can be found on my website: and to some extent on Instagram.


Euphoria, oil on canvas, 503x400mm, 2021