University of Northampton art grad overcomes arthritis to be in the running for prestigious award

Jan Harrington. Photo: MK Gallery
Jan Harrington. Photo: MK Gallery

A University of Northampton art graduate who was forced to change the way she worked due to arthritis has been nominated for a prestigious award.

The painful condition hampered Jan Harrington’s love of drawing lines freehand so she set about finding a more comfortable way of creating her art – and the answer was tape.

Jan Harrington. Photo: MK Gallery

Jan Harrington. Photo: MK Gallery

Her new way of working caught the eye of staff from MK Gallery in Milton Keynes who nominated her for the Platform Graduate Award, which supports emerging artistic talent to further their practice.

“I’m really proud to be nominated for the Platform Graduate Award, as it validates all my hard work," she said.

"Even if I don’t win, getting this far has raised the profile of my work and it’s great to be in this position so soon after leaving university.”

Jan, who graduated in July, said she has been creating doodles and line drawings since she was 15-years-old.

"Becoming frustrated with the illustrative style I was working in, I returned to art A-level as a mature student, found my imagination and returning to abstract line drawings, holding a solo exhibition in 2006," she said.

"After many years of producing pen and ink series, I realised I needed more creative development and decided to go to university.

“The course has been amazing, allowing me to experiment with sculpture, metalwork, zines, but eventually I returned to fine pen and ink work.

“With my work becoming more intricate, I began to find it a struggle to hold a pen for any length of time, discovered tape, and haven’t looked back.”

Jan began constructing 2D and 3D tape installations in her final year at the university and invites interaction with visitors including tearing the work down which then becomes part of a video project.

The Milton Keynes resident said: “I play with the moving image as well as the sounds of the tape ripping off the walls, it’s a wonderful noise.”

Now, with the backing of tape manufacturer Cr8 Tapes, she has plenty of the raw material at her disposal and is looking forward to creating her installation at MK Gallery.

Devised in 2012 in collaboration with CVAN South East, the Platform Graduate Award is a partnership between MK Gallery and other galleries in Portsmouth, Margate and Oxford.

Twenty three graduates have been nominated from across 14 universities in the south east.

Jan will exhibit her work at MK Gallery during November, with the winning artist from the 23 announced on November 23 - the winner will receive a £2,000 bursary and bespoke mentoring.