Mom, That Cat Looks Weird!

Jane Stephanny

1 – 16 December 2018

When it comes to words, Jane Stephanny often feels she has all the right pieces of the puzzle in her head, but upon wanting to express them they come out all jumbled up in a chaotic pile of scattered notions and disjointed ideas. As a means of communicating her thoughts, drawing has always felt more natural and efficient to her than speaking or writing.

Regardless of the medium, Jane tries to make artworks that are, first and foremost, relatable to people. They often depict the quirks and peculiarities of the human condition, starting from careful observation of humans in their natural environment going about doing the things that make them human, but seen through a satirical lens. Having always been into kitsch and B-horror movies, Jane mixes the bizarre with the mundane, always putting a humorous spin on things, often in a slightly unnerving, grotesque manner.

Indeed, Jane is an ardent follower of the Zen philosophy of wabi-sabi (侘寂), finding perfection in imperfection, and embracing mistakes as adding a unique kind of beauty that is ultimately more meaningful than the beauty found in perfection. The characters in her pieces are flawed, not afraid to show the ugly side of their aesthetics and behaviour. They are flawed because they are human; indeed, being flawed is what makes them human.

At once contrasting with and complementing her focus on the relatable is a tendency to incorporate the fantastical, her works often featuring an array of weird hybrid creatures, freaks of nature which blur the lines between humans and animals. Again, they serve the purpose of questioning what it really means to be human, and whether we’re really all that different from the creatures we choose to surround ourselves with.

Jane likes using a variety of different art media, and enjoys exploring the link between process and application, using the medium as a means to convey a message as much as the drawing itself. She is particularly fond of printmaking, as the unpredictability in processes such as etching gives an organic feel to her works, adding imperfections in line with her central philosophy.

She has a background in Illustration, which means that all her works are designed to tell a story of some sort. While the medium itself is important from a technical point of view, when it comes to the actual subjects Jane always ensures her art depicts characters that are part of a wider world, a world which could have been taken from an imaginary short story, movie or novel.

In the past few years, Jane has been working closely with other illustrators as part of the Raksasa Print Studio collective, which in turn has had an influence on her personal style.

Her debut show is a showcase of how her past works have evolved and come together to culminate into her current series of works. There is no common theme uniting these new works, other than the universal threads highlighted earlier in this summary and which run throughout the full body of Jane’s artwork. As she was working on this latest set of paintings and drawings, Jane felt she was naturally being drawn to subjects relating to her childhood, her family, and her own personal experiences in the last few years. Again, the topics are in many ways very relatable not just to herself, but to most of us (think family dinners, urban bus rides and pet shows), while incorporating into these familiar scenes elements that are downright bizarre (baby satays, feline mermaids and paranoid pets) and make us question our own mundane existence at its very core.

Written by Pieter De Richter.