Monday 8 July 2013

10 Questions Column: Canadian Painter Jen Mann

Painter Jen Mann at her studio in front of her painting Bubblegum exhibited at her show at Neubacher Shor Contemporary in March 2013

Exciting young Canadian artist Jen Mann's latest figurative paintings in vivid, saturated colour illuminated her new solo show Strange Beauties. Andreas Romagnoli and Jeanne-Marie Cilento asked her 10 questions about her life and work

LIVING in Mississauga on the shores of Lake Ontario just out of Toronto, Jen Mann attended Canada's largest and oldest artistic educational institution, the Ontario College of Art and Design. She earned her BFA in print-making from the university in 2009. However, painting has been her focus since she finished her degree and she has already created a substantial body of work.

For her latest show, Mann took digital photographic off-cuts to inspire her new paintings. Her photorealist technique concretizes movement into a painterly amber, forever arrested mid-motion. Images deleted or thrown away when people are caught unaware or in awkward poses, she uses as the basis for paintings. She sees the beauty in these abstracted, odd pictures captured momentarily by the camera. By painting them in brilliant, surreal hues she heightens simultaneously the sense of the real and unreal.

Mann says the main focus of her creative work is exploring the subconscious and ideas of perceived beauty and identity. "Beauty on the fringes” was the theme for the large-scale oil and acrylic paintings. "In my newest series of works I challenge limitations to acceptable beauty," the painter says. "Limitations are death to creativity. The idea of being wrong is also a sort of death. The idea of wrong is something that intrigues me, things that don’t belong, colours that don’t quite fit together. The idea that something can be wrong makes me want to see what kind of magic lies behind the world of 'no' 'bad' and 'mistake'."

1. What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a series that looks at painting through digital forms of abstraction, multiple exposures and pixelations.

2. What inpires you for your creative work now?
I am inspired by people, relationships, identity and existentialism. 

3. How did you choose painting as your creative metier?
Sometimes things just work out... Painting and I just work together... It was never a struggle or a fight to get along. It just always felt right.

4. Can you describe the experience, person or training that has had the greatest impact on your painting and design career?
I think my parents have had the greatest impact on my artistic career. They were very supportive from a young age. I don't think I would be where I am without that support and guidance. 

5. What do you find the most challenging aspect of your work technically?
Patience...Slowing things down to focus on the details

6. Where do you like to draw or create your initial paintings?
I have a studio where I paint. It is all white ~ so that there are no distractions. 

7. Do you have a set schedule of working creatively everyday or is the process more fluid?
I don't have a schedule in a regular sense. I work intensely when I am inspired and feeling creative. But there are many days that I just sort of store up energy and gather inspiration.

8. What part of painting gives you the most happiness and do you find your creative process is more rational or instinctive?
The painting part is very rational... The mock-up part is instinctive and fluid. I create my images in photoshop first, working with photos taken in my studio. When I work with the photos I don't have a plan for anything before I start. I just play around to find what comes to the surface. When I get down to painting, there are flourishes exaggerations but it is more rational. I like both parts ~ it's all very fun.

9. Is there a town or place in the world you consider inspiring?
Well I haven't been to many places. I find people more inspiring than places... So I guess really old places where there is lots of history, where people from many generations have lived and died... I find those places fascinating.

10. In our digital age what does painting give us as an art form and how do you define contemporary art?
Painting gives a certain type of authority in art. It is also very tactile ~ there is still an element of human touch involved. I think that authenticity is nice in our digital age. Contemporary art is everything and it is nothing... It's really all who is observing it and from what vantage point.

For more information about Jen Mann's work contact Neubacher Shor Contemporary gallery in Toronto: 

Sway 2013 oil on canvas 50x50 inches
The artist at work on her new paintings that explore digital abstraction and pixelation.

Deep Blue Sea 2013 acrylic on canvas 48x60 inches
Cotton Candy 2013 acrylic on canvas 48x46 inches
Bubblegum 2012 acrylic on canvas 60x72 inches
Jen Mann working closely on a new large-scale figurative painting. 
Strange Beauties ~ Jen Mann's new solo show that was held at Toronto's  Neubacher Shor Contemporary in March 2013.

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