Jane Irish's paintings create confrontations and coexistences between realms of history that rarely collide—such as ornamentation and political protest, art and warfare, poetry and architecture. Often employing the traditional medium of egg tempera, an ancient technique used in wall frescos and illuminated manuscripts, Irish's paintings fuse energetic images of sumptuous interiors with inscriptions of colonialism and resistance. She incorporates imagery from her travels abroad to historic sites and buildings (through France, Vietnam, Italy, and other places) where she paints on site alla prima and interweaves labyrinthine spaces with war motifs and poetry by Vietnam War veterans. In 2005, she organized the exhibition Operation Rapid American Withdrawal in response to the invasion of Iraq, which included works by over 80 artists. Alongside her prolific painting practice, Irish creates ceramic vases that further explore questions of beauty and violence and the construction of historical meaning through decorative patterns and traditional forms.
Jane Irish received her MFA in 1980 from Queens College, CUNY, and has exhibited at venues including Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Institute of Contemporary Art, PA; the Walker Art Center, MN; Delaware Center for Contemporary Art; Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Irish has been the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, a Painters and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, a Painting Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, and a Painting Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work is held in public collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Irish lives and works in Philadelphia.