Artist’s Notebook

Artist Jen Mann

I incidentally came across the art work of Jen Mann while I was browsing through some recently posted short films on VIMEO.

What immediately struck me about this film was it’s the high production value. For such a young artist, she really has her act together.

When I reviewed Mann’s resume, ( http://www.jenmann.com/ ) I noticed that she was a finalist in the 2013 Kingston Prize and then the 2015 winner. To be frank, I never heard of the Kingston Prize before seeing it mentioned in the resume of artist Jennifer Carvalho.

Jennifer Carvalho – 2009 Kingston Prize Finalist

As an emerging artist, Jen Mann’s career is amazing.

In 2009, Jen graduated from the OCAD with a BFA. Mann’s focus seems to have been on print-making, given that won four different awards between 2007 and 2009. However, for some reason she decided to switch to painting.

It was my experience that people are increasingly unwilling to spend money for something they feel they can copy for free.

One reason I returned to painting is that there is still a unique experience when you stand in front of a physical object that is a painting, particularly when the size or texture paint shapes that experience.

Maybe Mann came to the same conclusion.

No matter what the reasons for changing from print-making to painting, Mann wasted no time with organizing group shows. One year after graduation, Mann launches into a series of international group shows: 18 group shows in five years.

2010: Canada (1); United States (2).
2012: United Kingdom (2); United States (1).
2013: Canada (1); United States (5)
2014: United States (2)
2015: Netherlands (2); United States (1)

This explosion of international of group shows may have been the result of her joining an artist collective called PRISM. This group formed in 2011 and the seemed to go inactive around 2014. During these 4 years, PRISM was a group of 30 emerging artists from different countries.

If you think about it, it is a brilliant concept; you create a group of artists from different geographically regions. It is my guess that each artist would be responsible for locating and organizing a gallery group show in their home city.

As a member, you would be looking for galleries that are interested in emerging and international artists.

As a collective, you would then package yourself under a particular theme or focus: for example, exploring the human figure in contemporary art. The packaging would need to resonate with the priorities of each local gallery. So, you would need to adjust the theme to the local gallery.

This packaging of artists creates a win-win for everyone.

For the gallery owner, all the work of recruiting and organizing a group show is done by artists. This kind of packaging would be particularly helpful to smaller galleries that are interested in showing artists from different regions or countries.

A small gallery owner, with limited time and resources, could suddenly stage group shows that would normally only be available to larger and more established galleries.

Mann had 11 group shows in 9 galleries between 2011 and 2014, 5 of these galleries have since closed or 56 percent. While the post 2008 economic climate has made life difficult for everyone, it does seem to suggest that smaller galleries were more open to these kinds of arrangements.

The benefit for the artists is that you can rapidly build your resume and gain exposure to regions and cities that would otherwise not be available to you.

Furthermore, assuming you can afford to travel, you can introduce yourself to the local gallery owner and maybe get representation. If not, you can check out the other local galleries and see if they are interested in representing you.

In Jen Mann’s case, she seems to have established a good relationship with the Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco. The Gallery seems to be a mix between a gallery and a shop, it hard to get a sense of how serious this gallery is, but the Spoke is the sister gallery to the Hashimoto Contemporary Gallery.

The Hashimoto represents two very interesting urban landscape artists that I am following very closely: Jessica Hess and Brett Amory.

Jessica Hess – Urban Landscape Artist

Brett Amory – Urban Landscape Artist

Jen Mann’s first solo show was at the Gallery 1313 in 2011, two years after graduation. The Gallery 1313 is an artist’s run centre, so doesn’t mean much, other than she clearly organized. It usually takes two years to get a show, so she must have had a body work already put together in her last year at OCAD.

Furthermore, while struggling to complete her studies, Mann was already planning ahead for gallery showings – impressive.

In 2012, Mann has her first solo show at the Neubacher Shor Contemporary Gallery (NSC) in Toronto. I don’t believe she was represented by the gallery yet, because in the same year, she had a second solo show at the Communication Art Gallery. This is postage stamp size gallery that features emerging and established artists.

The same year that Mann becomes a finalist in the Kingston Prize Competition, she also appears to get representation by the NSC gallery. Mann’s first show is in Feb-Mar 2013, followed by a second show in Nov 2014.

The artist just completed her third solo show in January 2016.

Neubacher Shor Contemporary Gallery

Not bad for someone 7 years out from art school.

Interesting to note that in 2011, the NSC Gallery represented 17 artists. By 2016, the Gallery had downsized its collection of artists to 13, with only 6 of the 2011 artists surviving.

About Chris Erskine

Visual Artist and independent film-maker. Try to post summaries of my artistic activities once per month. View all posts by Chris Erskine

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