Janet Werner
Dawna II

2004

Oil on canvas
122 x 137 cm
2009.15
Gift of the artist

Dawna II is part of a pair of canvasses depicting the same subject in different ways, exemplifying two styles of Janet Werner’s painting practice that employ the expressive power of the medium of paint. The artist transforms the first figure by highlighting given details of her clothing, by creating different textures, and through the use of successive layers of paint – variations in the scale and perspective of the background are also apparent.

Each canvas represents a distinct period in the artist’s output and show us the evolution of her painterly treatment. Dawna (2001-2006) is part of a series of portraits based on images taken from fashion magazines. References to the photographic are apparently within the work itself, notably the subject’s pose and the framing of her face. Painted three years later, Dawna II is a further departure from the source image, and served as a catalyst for a new series of works that reference a distinct iconographic heritage, drawing from dolls, porcelain and snow-globe figurines, 18th-century miniatures and other folk images. 

Seeing these two canvases together invites us to observe the process of transposal from image to materiality in Werner’s practice. We see the power of her brush’s expressiveness as the motif is treated anew in the more recent painting, done in a freer style that demonstrates an exaggerated expressionism in the artist’s second treatment of the same subject. Werner has an immense talent at evoking her subjects’ presence for the viewer. Feelings of isolation, alienation, and introversion that she conveys in these figures arises from her focus on the gaze: though it captures the viewer’s attention, their gaze appears to be facing inward, to the figure’s inner life.