British Artist Heather Jansch Sculpture
“Heather is a genius with an eye for nature that in another generation would have seen her burnt as a witch; now she is rightly considered one of our country’s finest artists. If you were to ask the visitors to Eden, ‘What is your favourite work here?’ it would be the horse, and we gave the entrance to our kingdom to this horse. Richard III, see it and weep.” ─Tim Smit, KBE., Founder of the Eden Project, UK
Her pioneering use of driftwood as a medium was frequently copied, but rarely rivalled.
Jansch spent many years perfecting the complex translation of her original driftwood works into bronze, establishing a technique that often made them indistinguishable from the original.
Her work is held in collections across the world. (1948 – 2021)
Discovering Figurative Art
Heather Jansch was a sculptor who specialised in equine figures in driftwood and bronze. She died in July 2021 at the age of 72.
From an early age she was inspired by the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and her lifelong passion for horses ran parallel; her childhood sketchbooks were crammed with studies of ponies. She studied fine art at Walthamstow Technical College and at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Born Heather Sewell, she married the renowned folk musician, Bert Jansch, in 1968 and they moved to a remote hill farm in Wales where Heather bred Welsh Cobs. During this period, which she described as her apprenticeship, Heather developed a profound understanding of equine behaviour and anatomy. She also became skilled at understanding the minute differences between closely related breeds. Her command and accuracy were fast noted by breeders, with whom her early traditional equine portraits in oils became much in demand.
A Change of Style
After ten years in Wales (having separated from Bert in 1974), Heather settled in South Devon in 1981 and a new style emerged in her painting, with vibrant colours and increasingly impressionistic canvases. She felt a restless drive to push her art in a new direction. Experimenting and expanding her subject matter, she began working in three dimensions, firstly in copper wire and plaster. But she often felt frustrated that her early sculptures lacked power, vitality, and the life force she could see in her equine subjects.
The breakthrough came when she began working in driftwood, abundant on the beaches of Devon. Driftwood was the key that unlocked her creativity and marked the beginning of a huge artistic output.
The Eden Horse
Heather was chosen to be represented in the Salisbury-based ‘The Shape of the Century’ exhibition in 1999, and the show transferred to London Docklands as part of the Millennium celebrations in 2000. As a consequence, Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, invited her to become its artist-in-residence. Her first pieces created within the Biomes there included cork pigs and storks. Then she created the life-size driftwood horse that became known as the Eden Horse. Its new scale and ambition took her work to another level and brought recognition from a wider international audience.
The limited durability of driftwood when kept outside (the natural environment for life-size sculpture), was becoming an issue. Heather collaborated over several years with skilled mould-makers at a fine art foundry, at last finding a seminal new method of casting highly complex forms in bronze. The resulting casts brought a new permanence and gravitas to the work.
Creating The Perfect Environment
In later years Heather also sculpted powerful horse heads and a series of dancers and ‘warrior women’ assembled from wood, copper and objets trouvés.
A move to a converted coach house near Exeter with 14 acres of woodland and water meadows provided an ideal setting for her work. She regularly opened her gardens as part of Devon Open Studios and the National Garden Scheme, where thousands of people viewed her sculpture over the years.
Heather exhibited frequently in the UK and internationally. Her work is held in private collections throughout the world.
Heather Jansch (born Heather Rosemary Sewell) was a British sculptor notable for making life-sized sculptures of horses from driftwood. Jansch reported that she struggled in her youth academically, but had a passion for drawing and writing. She attended Walthamstow Technical College for her Foundation year and from there gained a place at Goldsmith’s. This proved a great disappointment, as figurative art was greatly derided there at the time. She left after the first year.
While at Walthamstow, in 1967, she had met the musician Roy Harper. It was Harper who introduced her to the already renowned guitarist Bert Jansch, whom she later married. They had a son, Kieron, now a film-maker, in 1971. They separated in 1974 and divorced some years later.
She bought a small hill farm in Dyfed, breeding Welsh cobs and specialized in painting traditional equestrian portraits until starting to sculpt in the 80s. Discovering driftwood as a medium for sculpture proved revelatory. Heather spent many years perfecting the translation of her complex work into bronze, pioneering a technique that made them indistinguishable from the driftwood original
By 1986 she was exhibiting sculpture regularly with Courcoux and Courcoux, a leading provincial contemporary gallery then based in Salisbury that took her work to the London Contemporary Art Fair where it received very favourable reviews.
Her life-size driftwood horses became her hallmark and in 1999 were featured in the Shape of the Century 100 Years of Sculpture in Britain at Salisbury Cathedral.
The exhibition was then taken to London’s Canary Wharf as part of the millennium celebrations in 2000 where her horses caught the attention of Tim Smit KBE founder of the Eden Project; she was invited to become one of their resident artists. Her horse was voted the most popular art work there and has since become widely known as The Eden Horse.
There are pieces by Heather in private collections around the world including in the US, Canada, Switzerland, France and Romania. Heather exhibited internationally on a number of occasions, including, in 2007, as artist in residence at Arte Sella in Borgo Valsugana, Italy.
A life-long writer, in 2009 she set up Olchard Press. She published “Heather Jansch’s Diary”, “Living with the Legend” about her life with Bert, and ruminations on her expeditions to Italy, “The Italian Job”, released in Summer 2021.
She died, following a stroke, on 5th July 2021 at Olchard, Devon.
- 2017 Solo Show, Gallery 161, London
- 2016 Sculpture by the Lakes, Dorset
- 2016 Lemon Street Gallery, Truro
- 2016 Sculpture Garden, Withiel, Cornwall
- 2016 Canwood Gallery, Hereford
- 2016 Diehl Gallery, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
- 2015 Celebrating Art in the Garden, West Lavington, Wiltshire
- 2015 Out Of Nature, Newport House, Almeley, Hereford
- 2013 Mosaiculture Botanical Gardens, Montreal, Canada
- 2013 Art for Interiors, Number Twelve East Street
- 2012 The Darley Stud, Stallion Parade, Newmarket
- 2011 Devon Open Studio and Open gardens for the NGS
- 2010 TAMED. The SPANISH BARN, Torre Abbey, Devon with Damien Hirst and Richard Long
- 2009 Goodwood racecourse
- 2008 Love London Recycled, London Zoo
- 2007 Artist in residence solo installation Arte Sella Borgo Valsugana. Italy
- 2006 Artist in residence Arte Sella, Italy
- 2005 Newby Hall, Yorkshire
- 2004 London Contemporary Arts Fair.
- 2004 Paris, Jardin du Luxembourg
- 2003 Artist in Residence The Eden Project
- 2003 London Contemporary Arts Fair
- 2002 Dartington Cider Press October/November bronzes
- 2002 Solo show Courcoux and Courcoux, Stockbridge
- 2002 The Foal Yard
- 2002 In Praise of Trees. Salisbury Cathedral.
- 2002 Art Parks International Sausmarez Manor, Guernsey
- 2002 London Contemporary Arts Fair
- 2001 Artist in residence Eden Project
- 2001 Solo show Dartington Cider Press. Bronzes
- 2001 Solo exhibition Saltram House NT, Plymouth
- 2000 Sculpture in the Gardens Cotehele NT, Cornwall
- 2000 Solo show Courcoux and Courcoux Stockbridge
- 2000 Shape of The Century-100 years of Sculpture in Britain. Canary Wharf London.
- 1999 Artist in Residence Newbury Spring Festival
- 1998 Artist in Residence Appledore Arts Fair
- 1998 Solo show Saltram House NT, Plymouth
- 1998 Solo show Courcoux and Courcoux, Stockbridge
- 1995 London Contemporary Arts Fair
- 1993 Solo show Seymour Gallery, Totnes
- 1991 Solo show Dartington
- 1990 Solo show Theatre Mwldan, Cardigan
- 1989 Solo show Courcoux and Courcoux Salisbury
- 1989 Bath Arts Fair
- 1989 London Contemporary Arts Fair
- 1987 Solo show Devon Guild of Craftsmen
- 1984 Solo show The Plough Theatre Torrington
New award to commemorate renowned sculptor Heather Jansch
A new award will commemorate Devon artist Heather Jansch who died in July.
Heather was a renowned sculptor who specialized in images of horses created in driftwood and bronze. Her life-size sculptures are held in collections around the world.
The recipient of the Award will receive a sculpture by Heather Jansch – a small bronze horse head modelled on her own horse, RaRa. The sculpture has been donated by Heather’s family and will be kept for one year before passing on to the next awardee.
The Award has been set up by Devon Artist Network to celebrate the contribution Heather made to Devon Open Studios, an annual event held across the county. Heather was an enthusiastic participant from the early days, inviting visitors to see her studio and discuss her work.
The Award will be made annually to recognize the contribution to Devon Open Studios by one artist or venue, reflecting Heather’s part in making the event a success.
In its first year, the Award will celebrate an outstanding contribution during the history of Devon Open Studios. Themes will vary from year to year to acknowledge the contribution of a variety of artists, including emerging and established, individual and groups, as well as a variety of artforms. A key criterion each year will be the warmth of welcome of the Open Studios venue and its popularity with visitors.
The first recipient of the Award will be artist and printmaker Jenny Pery who has taken part in Devon Open Studios since its inception.
Jenny Pery, pictured above, said:
“I’m extremely honoured to receive this award, particularly in its first year. I’ve taken part in Devon Open Studios since it started, and for me, it’s really play time – I’m always experimenting, and I love meeting new people and talking to them. It’s always fascinating to see people’s reactions to my work, which is essentially about orchestrating colour. There’s a complete magic in printing – once they’re put onto the press, something changes so you’re never quite certain how the finished image is going to look. It’s wonderful to share that magic and excitement with visitors as they see the work come off the press.”
Doff Pollard, a founder of Devon Open Studios said:
“We approached Heather in 2000 to ask if she would take part in the first Open Studios in Teignbridge. From the very first, she set about ensuring her venue was an exciting place to visit, offering the opportunity to see into her workshop, a chance to see her work inside the house and outside in garden and landscape settings.
“It was more than just getting the opportunity to see an artist at work, Heather spent a lot of time and energy in creating places to sit and reflect, picnic, and explore with things to do, especially for families and children. Her venue was frequently the one where people stayed the longest and attracted the most visitors.
“It is fitting to celebrate where she led and others have followed by giving an award in her memory.”
Zoe Singleton, chair of Devon Artist Network, the organization which runs Devon Open Studios said:
“We’re honored that Heather’s family are working with us to establish this Award in Heather’s memory. So many of our artists have been inspired by Heather and her contribution to Devon Open Studios. She set such a fine example for us all to follow.”
Kieron Jansch, Heather’s son said:
“Sharing her work and process as an artist was important to Heather. We hope the award helps to recognize the important contribution artists make to all local communities, and their generosity and courage in opening up their homes and studios to the public.”
Award winner Jenny Pery will be opening her studio During Devon Open Studios which runs from 11 to 26 September.
For further information
Gillian Taylor 07761 546075