Jan Crombie | | Artist based in Norwich, Norfolk

About Jan

Jan moved to East Anglia a few years ago and has a studio at the Anderson Yard in Norwich. Her practice currently includes painting, drawing, making sculptures and assemblages and writing short fiction. She continues to be involved with the arts in Oxford where she lived for many years She remains vice chair of OVADA (Oxfordshire Visual Arts Development Agency) where she is also Course leader for the Ma equivalent Continuing Practice Course.

While in Oxford as well as establishing her own studio practice she established a small Contemporary Art Gallery called The China Shop, and the Workshop Studios.

She continues to exhibit widely and is involved with collaborative projects both here and abroad.

Artist Statement

Jan is interested in using the manipulation of paint, rather than words, to create a form of unspoken and ambiguous narrative. An early interest in myth, history, make-believe and theatre, continues to influence the creation of the fictitious characters and their stories that inhabit her work.

Jan is currently exploring both personal and political concerns through the invention of a fictitious parallel universe inhabited by a community she has called the Tower Tribe.

Jan likes to work on a number of related works at the same time, in this way she feels that the series can explore the underlying ideas and adopt a resonance when seen together. She is currently working on the eighth Tower Tribe series, Be Secret and Exult. Many of her titles are taken from the poems of W. B. Yeats.

Welcoming the unexpected, Jan is an artist who likes to relinquish control and allow the moment of making to direct her work. She creates a strong sense of an imagined space and allows the palimpsest of previous characters, to contribute to the final image. Juxtaposing, layering and interweaving imagery, it is the freshness of the mark and the precision of the colour that is paramount. By over-painting and repositioning the figures in the process of creating a single work becomes a narrative in its own right, with only the last scene remaining for the viewer to contemplate. Jan likes to develop a series of related works till the underlying ideas and imagery has been explored and the series adopts a resonance when seen together.

Sculpture is also an important part of Jan’s practice, often feeling it imperative to create a tangible form for some of the ideas developing on the canvas. Both her assemblages, created out of found objects which reflect an anthropological approach to the Tower tribe, and her modelled work in clay and plaster, become part of the series she is working on at the time.

Taking the form of a 3D object the work takes on a new emotive power. Attempting a synthesis in the making process Jan’s likes to combine the influences of the abstract expressionist artists who taught her at Goldsmiths College in the 70’s: Bert Irwin, Basil Beattie and John Hoyland with more recent figurative painters whose work she admires such as Daniel Richter and Marlene Dumas. Recently incorporating a more conceptual approach to her work, Jan is incorporating within her work a range of pictorial devices and ciphers that constitute a personal visual language enabling her to offer reflections on a range of experiences, both real and imagined.

CV (Selected)

Recent Exhibitions

  • 2020 Castlegate Prize (Shortlisted) September
  • 2020 Main Gallery Anteros Arts July solo show (postponed)
  • 2020 Salthouse Church Norfolk solo show (postponed)
  • 2019 Wells Contemporary, Wells Cathedral
  • 2019 Blue Screen Glass Tank Oxford Brookes University (two person show)
  • 2019 Interfaces Paint Collective Nunns Yard Gallery Norwich
  • 2018 Women of the World Festival Norwich Playhouse Gallery
  • 2017 Below the Surface OVADA Gallery Oxford
  • 2016 Other Place, Solo show Anteros Arts Norwich
  • 2016 New Hall Art Collection The Royal Academy London
  • 2015 Poetry Library Stories from a Fruitbowl Southbank London
  • 2015 LAC, Group Show Undercroft Gallery Norwich
  • 2014, 2013, 2011 Threadneedle Prize (shortlisted and longlisted) London
  • 2013 Import, Group Show The Annexe Sclater St London
  • 2012 The Light Turned Flimsy, Solo Show New Hall Cambridge
  • 2012 Last and First Men Group Show Battersea Library London


  • 2015 Galerie Herold Sender/ Receiver (ACE funded) Bremen Germany
  • 2008 Colle Verde Let Loose the Dogs (ACE funded) Lucca Italy
  • 2003 Matriarchy (Ace funded) Said Business School Oxford

Selected Talks / Events

  • 2013 Artist Talk Ashmolean Museum Oxford
  • 2012 Interview with Sadie Coles Ruskin School of Art Oxford
  • 2012 Symposium Art and Education Oxford Brookes University

Curatorial Projects

  • 2016 Informal Elements Contemporary Painting Show OVADA Oxford
  • 2015 The Stuff Collective Woodstock Museum