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“I’m like Photoshop, I see my life in layers”, I shared with a good friend.

For those familiar with Adobe Photoshop, the design elements are separated and blended through layers. Each layer can carry text, vectors, photos, colours, shapes and they can be blended in different modes for the desired effect. Likewise, life is made up of different layers, combining to form a work of art.


This jogs my memory of an interview I had with Janet Ayliffe, an Australian artist who had grew up in Kangaroo Island, a quiet and understated island. On my visit to this beautiful island, I was captured by its simplicity, unpretentiousness and wild beauty.  This island, seven times the size of Singapore, houses only approximately 4,400 people.

One day, I stumbled into an art gallery called “Fine Art Kangaroo Island”, opened by a couple, Fred and Fleurs Peters. Surrounded by such natural beauty, it was no surprise that the running themes are all around nature. You’ll see the Australian Pelican tastefully expressed through sculptures and paintings. You’ll see sea creatures beautifully crafted as jewelry. Fred himself was a silversmith. But what caught my eye was a set of artworks that were intricately layered. Each element, be it water coloured animals or handwritten prose, were carefully woven together to create a collage that drew me in.



These were the works of Janet Ayliffe, a print artist, painter and printmaker for more than 20 years. I was so enamoured by her gentle and personal expressions that I asked Fred if I could contact her. Thankfully, I managed to speak with her and here are excerpts from of our conversation:



On Inspiration

Human nature is not one dimensional and entirely straightforward. We think in different layers and layer them over each other. Likewise, in my work, I layer various elements like animals, birds, flora and fauna, writings from my journals, with historical maps and records. I am interested in the ‘why’ and I want to honour people who have gone before me.


On Technique

I was one of earlier ones who have experimented with etching techniques. With Dan Welden and Pauline Muir, I had pioneered solar plate (Photopolymer) etching techniques as well as multiple plate work. These techniques allow for great detail and definition. Each plate is hand coloured.


On Art

Art is an expression of our lives and happens in different mediums. It is shaped by our circumstances.



I’ve been pondering over Erwin McManus’s words: “Life is a creative act. We are all artisans when it comes to life itself. We are a part of a creative process that brings to the world something beautiful, good and true.”

As I grow older, I feel a greater desire to make my life to count, to add colour and create beauty everyday. I want to weave the layers of my life together, bravely facing the layers of disappointment + challenges, freely celebrating the layers of successes + joys and creatively blending them with the ordinary + mundane… so that my life, can be a piece of Art.




Text by: Jael Chng
*Images of Artwork courtesy of Janet Ayliffe. Photos taken by Jael Chng





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