top of page

Janine Lambers on Expressing Nature through Gold

As international art consultants, Artelier specialises in curating art for luxury residential, hospitality, yacht and aviation projects. Artelier's feature wall collection – Artist Walls – presents a collection of artists whose originality of ideas and dedication to their materials makes them true contemporary masters. Through collaborating with Artelier, they have created large-scale custom art commissions that reinvent the concept of the mural for the modern age, pushing the possibilities for feature wall art.

Janine Lambers' intricate gold leaf murals present an ethereal view of the natural world, captivating viewers with their sublime warm glow. The theme of nature is central to Lambers' work, as she draws inspiration from observing its ever-changing cycles. Nature itself interacts with the artworks, as the changing light of the day and seasons brings new subtleties to the gold leaf. Equally important for Lambers is drawing inspiration from the past, as she incorporates ancient techniques and artistic styles into her gilded artworks. In this interview, she discusses how her ideas develop, her meditative approach to both gilding and nature, and the breadth of her inspirations.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work, and what is your process for evolving ideas?

Art for me has come intuitively. I had not really planned on becoming an artist, as I trained to become a gilder and conservator, and for years worked with craftspeople, clients, galleries, and auction houses which deepened my craft. But with time, inspiration started to bubble up to the surface. I started to see scenes of nature in gold leaf, started to look at the sun, flowers, mountains and humans wondering how I can translate all that into a gilded painting.

I began experimenting with the techniques I had learned to create new concepts in two-dimensional and three-dimensional artworks. My knowledge of gold leaf techniques taught me when to use sgraffito, when punch work, how to escape the limitation of the 8.5cm x 8.5cm square leaf, and so on. My meditation practice also is a well of inspiration. Meditation is also important to my methods, teaching me when I need to step away, as art depends heavily on when to stop – often 'less is more'.

I love what you said about “seeing scenes of nature in gold leaf”. How do scenes of nature inform your art?

Something I tackled fairly early on was trying to imitate the radiance of the sun. I live in a green area, up the Hudson valley in New York. We have the river here, and rolling green Highlands, and nature was a big factor in why we chose to live here. For me, it’s all about observation – observing nature, how it constantly changes, and that hugely informs my art.

When you observe nature, you see it bud in spring, the vibrance of summer, and then how it slowly ends up dying into winter. I spend a lot of time outside, and go for walks every day. All of a sudden, when you try to stop thinking and just perceive, you begin to see nature differently. Those are the images that stick with me; all that flows into my art.

People often form a personal response when representing nature, depending on how it makes them feel as well as how they see it. Is perception an important experience in your process?

You mention a very important word – it's the feeling. Feeling is essentially our true understanding of life. If we are able to get in touch with our feelings on a more precise level, I think it would guide us through a less challenging life, as we would intuitively feel what our own true nature is. We have a layered, learned response to many things, as we are exposed to adults, parents, teachers who have a certain idea of how we should be taught. I think on some levels we are trying too hard to rationalise many things, led by the notion that something has to make sense.

In a way, I have always felt that the artistic path or artistic expressions have nothing to do with thinking about something, or having a rational idea about it – at least not for me. It just all comes out of an intuitive feeling, and all of a sudden an image can pop up in my mind, and it feels as though it’s not me who has conjured it up at all. Yet, I do go about creating art methodically, as that's the training of my craft background. When I begin, I plan the steps I have to take to get there. But the rest of the process is what many would call “subconscious”, although I would say it is the “conscious” process; that’s the way I view the world.

So, your craft practice has informed your art not only with the skills, but also by providing that methodological approach for an overall very intuitive process?

Yes, I would agree with that; it provides a methodological approach, once the subconscious (or as I believe, the conscious mind,) has actually produced the idea. The way that it is produced is actually through letting go of ideas. Unlike realist painters, for instance, who believe that how they see the person is how they should paint their portrait, for me the ideas are more intangible and show up by themselves.

Having said that, I'm very happy to work with other people's ideas or suggestions – this in itself is a huge opportunity for inspiration. Sometimes when someone comes to me with a particular image that they seek, and I immediately begin to see it in my own techniques. That kind of collaboration is something I actually enjoy very much. With Artelier, it happened for instance on the Mt. Fuji installation for the yacht M/Y Aurora Borealis, and similarly for an upcoming project on a BBJ Max.

Could you describe how the project for the Mt. Fuji 5m wall mural evolved, from your perspective?

I received a call from Artelier and we discussed a particular art piece that I had previously created, and Artelier saw an opportunity to develop it into a landscape. I immediately started to see it in my mind's eye. I was asked me to draw up a variety of sketches, and after that we put together a few samples including technical samples and a gold colour sample palette. Once the project was confirmed, the rest was history, as they say!

Working on such a large surface is an artist's dream come true. Initially it is intimidating, but then the decades’ worth training and honing of one's profession kicks in, and I began tackling it as I always do with a project. I create a plan, make samples and work very methodically. For a number of months, I worked closely with Artelier sussing out the details; this included practical discussions such as where to produce the artwork, as the project will be delivered in Europe while I live in the US. I contacted a few of my artist friends and ended up creating the work in Helge Meuthien's lacquering workshop in Hamburg, Germany. Helge was an instrumental part in the creation of the wall, and gave me the space to work in his studio. From then on everything started to fall into place. As with everything in life, there