AD 160 | Janna Watson
“Sifting Through Abstraction”

Canadian painter Janna Watson uses abstraction as both an escape from and return to the real. As the world we know dematerializes into paint strokes, so too does her paint take stage as its very own character in a multi-act drama of composition. Bundles of colour, made up of discrete yet inseparable instances of pigment—what Watson refers to as “moments”—are teeming and poised as though caught mid-multiplication. Sweeps of paint re-direct sharply and fold over themselves; thin, rigid ink lines cut into the pictorial field as rudimentary elements in an increasingly complex system of painterly language. All the components play out on a surface of slow, chromatic gradation. Like many of Watson’s players, these backdrops tenderly gesture toward the familiar, stopping just short of representation. The result is a conceptual project (and distinct, stylistic signature) that speaks to a contemporary milieu in which abstract painting is not the retreat of meaning into an unrecognizable realm, but rather the emergence of medium as a “figure” in its own self-inscribed world of feeling and being. Watson does more than reveal paint’s potential to emote—she gives it a space to reveal itself, in its own time.

Janna Watson holds an honours degree in Drawing and Painting from the Ontario College of Art and Design, and since graduating has exhibited extensively across Canada and internationally in over thirty solo exhibitions. Her work has appeared in notable public collections including those of TD Bank, CIBC, Telus, the Ritz-Carlton, ONi ONE, the Soho Metropolitan Hotel, and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 2013, she was commissioned to create an impressive, 11-foot painting for the lobby of AURA, Canada’s tallest residential building.

Watson’s paintings circulate regularly at international fairs, including Art Toronto, CONTEXT Art Miami, and in Seattle, where they were recently featured by Artsy in its list of “10 Works to Collect at the Seattle Art Fair.” Watson’s work has been covered by publications such as The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, NOW Magazine, and House & Home.

Janna Watson also runs Studio Watson, a business dedicated to redefining interiors with hand-tufted floor pieces inspired by the artist’s abstract compositions.

She lives and works in Toronto.

Show Notes:
  • Janna’s experience as a youth growing up in a small town in northern Ontario with her father being a Pentecostal pastor.
  • “Living in somewhat of a bubble… “naive atmosphere” as a child.” She was an introvert and spent her growing life in the church, which Janna says added to the naïve atmosphere.
  • Janna reflects about her experiences coming out at the age of 18, her process of beginning to question the very faith she grew up believing, and how the world might be moving around her.
  • Janna explains how she came to a particular point of surrender in the wrestling of her faith and personal life. – Critical point within her story; being a major catalyst for who she is today.
  • Janna realized later on in her life how much she needed to “touch into” the spiritual world and tap into surrender.
  • The process of covering all of her paintings with resin during a rough period in her life. “Shiny and sexy – glossing over the flaws.” 
  • Janna explains speaking in tongues and how she personally uses it within her prayer life and her thoughts on how speaking in this manner somehow transports her to her subconscious state of mind to be able to translate those feelings in her artwork.
  • Janna’s grandfather pushing her to draw the “essence of things” in her drawings and how they needed to be wilder. He taught her the art of abstraction.
  • Janna reflects on the title of her show speaking to the way we are currently living our lives as the coronavirus is occurring. 

Posted 05.23.2020


"I started this series as a means for exploration, an exploration of self, and an exploration of the perspectives of other artists.

This series is an unabridged documentation of conversations between artists. It’s a series dedicated to breaking down the barriers we tend to set up in our own minds. I want to inspire future creatives to have the courage to explore and experiment. This is about making dreams a reality and not about letting our dreams fall to the wayside.

My intention is to give my audience a sense of real human connection, something that feels rich and organic.

When I was thinking of a title I thought of the word “movement”.

In relation to the Renaissance period in art, my goal for this program is to signify a rebirth of consciousness towards the way we look at contemporary art."

- Yoshino