Jen Mann, an artist from Toronto with her first solo exhibition at Gallery Jones, is diving deep into the culture of celebrity, social media and constructed personas. Through a variety of medium (film, sculpture and primarily painting), Mann is employing the masking tools available in this hyper-self-conscious age to question perception and ideas of identity. With herself as the subject, obfuscated by luminescent layers of distraction such as glossy wigs, theatrical make-up and the text of magazine covers, Mann is also challenging our definition of real as it relates to the self.
Since graduating from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 2009, Mann has developed a dichotomy in her artistic practice between form and content. She paints meticulously rendered, hyper-realistic canvases whose subject matter is populated by the look and feel of a generation that rapaciously consumes and discards imagery and content. The juxtaposition of an expertly executed and seriously considered self-portrait involving emoji stickers haphazardly applied to the face speaks to an existential condition: how do we know ourselves, and one another, when our means of communication are virtual?
At times self-deprecatingly funny, beautifully poignant and emotionally raw, the collective work presents a well-curated and highly polished satire of what goes into how we want to be seen. Taken as a whole, the exhibition is a meta-fiction of an art star. There are movie trailers for movies that don’t exist, posters for those movies, paintings of paintings hanging in a gallery (that are also stills from the movies) and 4’ x 3’ paintings of magazine covers featuring Mann as the elusive ingénue, artistic genius, millennial poster child or fallen icon. Mann’s impressive artistic abilities are on full display in this exhibition that is in many ways a portrait of our time and an ode to the timelessness of self-reflection and aggrandizement.