“Every painting starts off with excitement and fear. I am compelled to paint - it is my connection to the world. I feel a constant struggle to say something, but everything must appear easy and joyful.”
Mary-Jane Alexander was born in Zimbabwe and graduated from the University of Cape Town (BA Fine Arts) where she was taught by Maurice Van Esche who had been a pupil of Matisse. Before arriving in England in 1977, she exhibited widely in Zimbabwe, lectured in anatomy and life drawing at the Bulawayo Art College and presented programmes on Rhodesian TV.
From 1979, her work became closely associated with the theatre, reflecting her deep interest in both actors and dancers. She has been fortunate enough to have worked with many dance companies, including the English National Ballet, the Spanish Dance Society and Petra Siniawski’s Jazz Dance Company. Her last theatrical venture was a series of paintings based on Fosse which was at the Prince of Wales Theatre in the West End. She is passionate about dance in all forms and her fast method of working has been developed over the years to capture the movement of the dancers as swiftly as possible. Her interest in figures has led to a series of nude studies … a natural development from the studies of dancers.
Mary-Jane is also well known for her "African" paintings, which are based on memories of her childhood in Zimbabwe. She uses rich colour and dramatic composition in these works, which are usually produced deep in the heart of the English winter in her studio in Camberley. For three months in 2003, she was invited to be Artist in Residence at Bedales Junior School (Dunhurst). There, working with the pupils, she produced a large mural which was to commemorate the life and work of Michael Sterne, the founder of the International School in Swaziland.
Mary-Jane has developed a wide portfolio of landscapes and these now form the main body of her work, as she has found the rhythms of the land and the sky as fascinating as the movements of the human body. All her work is characterised by its joy of the dramatic, not just in Hampshire and other parts of the South of England, but also in Southern Italy. This area has become very important to her as she now has a studio in the province of Caserta, Campania. Her landscapes are rich in both colour and texture and are all painted in the open air. This has inspired her to see the abstract form inherent in landscapes and she has recently found creative expression in abstract painting as well.