Since the 1990s, Janet Werner has been developing her own, distinct brand of fictional portraiture, using found, fashion photographs (mostly of women), which she routinely cuts up in the manner of cadavre exquis, before recombining parts and transforming the figures in paint via further stylistic operations.
The resulting, composite characters have been said to address issues of gender and representation, ideological conditioning and psychological vulnerability (beauty, or prettiness, being often pitted against destruction), while simultaneously appealing to humour, fantasy and seduction.
The current exhibition is a compact survey of the last decade of the artist’s work, during which such references to humour and the carnivalesque have tended to recede somewhat, in favour of a more measured approach. Since 2015, Werner has also been giving increased attention to the paintings’ production context, representing the studio as work site, with source photographs and paintings cohabiting in a mise en abyme that even occasionally disposes of the figure altogether.
Janet Werner was born in Winnipeg in 1959. After earning a BA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1985 and an MFA from the Yale University School of Art and Architecture in 1987, she returned to Canada, where she taught at the University of Saskatchewan from 1987 to 1999 and Concordia University from 1999 to 2019. Monographic exhibitions include What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf? (Art Gallery of Guelph, 2019), Another Perfect Day (Kenderdine Gallery, Saskatoon; Esker Foundation, Calgary; Galerie de l’UQAM, Montréal; MacIntosh Gallery, London, 2013) and Is Anything Alright? (Art Gallery of Windsor, 2009).