"Art is of value if it helps us to live." –Janice McNab
Janice McNab is a Scottish painter, an academic and a writer, primarily uncovering forgotten histories of other women artists. Her recent work on Swedish artist Hilma af Klint will be published in the catalogue for Forms of Life: Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian, Tate Publications, April 2023.
Janice McNab was born in Aberfeldy and her MFA is from Glasgow School of Art. In 2000, she was awarded a Scottish Arts Council residency to Amsterdam, and she has been primarily based in the Netherlands since then, gaining her PhD from the University of Amsterdam in 2019, with a scholarship from the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. She is currently Head, MA Artistic Research, at the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, The Hague.
McNab tends to work on extended serial projects and these have been shown as discrete bodies of work and in group shows, in influential private galleries such as Laurent Delaye Gallery, London; Doggerfisher, Edinburgh) and Galerie Volker Diehl, Berlin, and in institutions across the world, including The Fleming Collection, London; The Essl Collection, Vienna; Prague Biennale 2, Prague; Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel; City Art Centre, Edinburgh; Bloomberg Space, London; Galerie La Centrale, Montreal; Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee; and ICA, Lisbon, among others.
In a lifetime of practice, these series have evolved as a complex visual discourse on the relationship between our immediate sensed bodies and our politicised eco-systemic bodies. The perspective is feminist and the ruptures and borders that the artist paints come from her life. Personal experience is made into shareable metaphor through the objects of daily touch and the food that passes through us. The paintings in True North focus on food, and synthesise works from two key series: The Ice Cream Paintings and Slits and a Skull.
McNab’s interest in a feminist re-reading of art history can also be traced in these paintings. The white dress of Velazquez’s Infanta hovers like a ghost within The Bloodbathers, and Titian’s Man with a Sleeve (1510) was the direct inspiration for the confrontational self-portrait The Soldieress. The diptych Slits and a Skull remodels Cotan’s deep stillness as a cri de coeur painted during the recent pandemic.
Over the winter of 2022/23, McNab was a Fellow of The Women’s international Study Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, re-visiting the research that produced an earlier series called The Isolation Paintings.