Jane Wilbraham (b. Shropshire, UK, 1967) studied at the Ruskin School or Drawing and Fine Art (1987-90), The Slade School of Art (1990-92). She spent 1993-1995 on residency at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. Wilbraham lives and works in London.
Wilbraham's sculptural practice is deliberately hermetic, extensive, repetitive and perversely time-consuming, so that she can use this making time as a contemplative exercise. Her often wryly witty motifs arise from her relationship with the urban environment, political/economic discourse as well as from a traditional folk-art canon.
The use of carving and whittling is particularly interesting in the current context, says Wilbraham: "The American writers Walter Faurot and E.J Tangerman published their useful and informative guides to whittling and carving during the Great Depression when the practice in the USA arguably reached its height, which suggests that there is a possible psychological link between extreme physical making using obdurate materials, and the experience of those living through economic disruption, trauma, dislocation or uncertainty". Her sculptures are produced alongside watercolours exploring similar subject matter.
In 2008, Wilbraham taught herself to carve and whittle, after inheriting some edge tools. She has often made her sculptures in sycamore, cut and carved in the green and sourced from the area around her London home and studio. It is a very hard, tight-grained, creamy white wood that is readily available, self-seeding prolifically on urban waste ground as well as in the field. Sycamore was often traditionally used in vernacular British folk art and craft including Welsh love spoons and clog soles as well as for various utilitarian domestic applications. For Wilbraham, it carries the dual potential to convey resourcefulness and poetry.
In 2019, Wilbraham had a solo exhibition in Stockholm, Sweden entitled Vanity Project, which included a variety of sculptures and watercolours. By carving and whittling wood in minute detail, using a variety of wood including field maple, lime, apple, pear, cherry and quince. Miniature arms with clenched fists holding improvised weapons protrude from whole, roughly cut logs alongside demons emerging from re-purposed lipstick cases. Swarms of fleeting insects, observed directly from life and rendered deftly in watercolour, almost dissolve into the paper, becoming an echo of the ‘insect-mageddon’ that is unfolding right now. In this exhibition, Wilbraham drew on her ever-expanding lexicon of motifs to evoke the dissonance of living in a consumerist society in an environmentally compromised, post-industrial world.
Selected shows include British Museum, London, UK; the New Art Gallery, Walsall, UK; and Hales Gallery, London, UK. Wilbraham's work is included in various private and public collections including the International Collage Center, USA; British Museum, UK; UBS, UK; Fidelity, UK; C12, USA; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA, USA and Oxford University, UK.