Jen Mann

Jen Mann is a madly talented artist from Canada who creates eyecatching and fabulously colored portraits of both men and women. Her photorealistic paintings are often paired with surrealistic aspects and explore subjects such as perceived beauty, identity, emotions and freedom. Fascinating as her works are, Artistic Moods asked her some questions about her background, her ambitions and about how her stunning works have come to be. Enjoy!

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Can you tell us a littlebit about yourself and about your background?
My name is Jen Mann. I am a Canadian artist living and working in the Toronto area. I went to OCAD and graduated with my BFA in 2009. I have since focused primarily on painting, and recently my work has leaned towards large scale portraiture.

At the Ontario College of Art and Design you studied printmaking. How did you switch to painting?
I think it was a natural transition for me. At the time when I graduated, I was really tired of multiples, and it was a relief to be working directly onto the surface of the piece. There is an immediacy with painting that I was drawn to.

What things go through your mind when you are painting?
Hahaha, all sorts of things. I think my mind wanders quite a bit, when unchecked… and when I am painting my mind sort of checks out. Sometimes I will replay the plot of a favourite movie, or day dream… usually it is not conscious thought.

Can you tell us about your ambitions behind your latest series called Strange Beauties?
Strange Beauties was sort of brought about by a frustration with lack of materials and ideas, and worked itself out of the off shots in my photo library that I had discarded. I wanted to find the beauty in the mistake, or the idea of bad or wrong. This idea influenced my color choices, I wanted to alter the colors, creating something unrealistic, and sometimes awkward. I ended up looking at the images I had discarded as beautiful.

When ignoring social norms and standards, how would you define beauty?
There is a lot of beauty in the unique qualities of each person, the freckle under an eye, the wrinkles in their lips. Sometimes it is our flaws or things we have deemed flaws about ourselves that actually cause us to be beautiful.

What are the most important aspects you wish to communicate through your art?
I am mostly concerned with reaching the viewer in some way. Whether the piece has the same meanings to me as to them does not matter to me, because in the end I think the experience you have with a painting is very personal. That said, I feel what the work does on a broad scale is having the same effect with most people in that it is emotionally contagious. This series of works has a positive effect. The colors, being so saturated are emotionally charged, and this comes across. My work deals a lot with personal relationships, emotions, identity, and existential ideas. Strange beauties had a lot to do with my relationships with the models in my studio, mostly friends and family. Using colors, I altered the image based on how I perceived them in that moment, capturing something about the mood between us, or the feeling I had when looking at the image and thinking of them and the moment we shared.

From your own collection, do you have a piece that is your favourite?
That is very hard. I’m not sure I have a favourite.

Who is your alltime favourite artist, and why?
This is also a very hard question. I think when I was a kid my favourite artist was Gustav Klimt, now I think if I had to list someone it would be Van Gogh. Though I think my favourite artists are my contemporaries, people working today, and there are too many just to list one or two.

So far, how have you experienced your career as an artist?
One day at a time. Being an artist, you have to be willing to fail in order to be creative and succeed. There are a lot of ups and downs.

Are you currently working on any new projects?
Right now I am finishing preparing my next solo show which will be at Compound Gallery in PortlandOregon in October. The work centres around the theme of digital abstraction and lost reality.

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