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Black River Running



For nearly two decades Jan Nelson has meticulously created paintings that concentrate deeply on the role of the visual in the construction and experience of an adolescent self.  In contemporary times, this concern is more relevant as it has ever been.  For her new series ‘Black River Running’, Nelson splices and cuts from various sources to create a simulation of the real, an exquisite corpse upon which our worldly anxieties are projected: nuclear blasts, the failure of capitalism, cyber-attacks, metadata and the encroachment of the online into everyday existence. 


In the age of the curated self-exemplified by; selfies, Instagram, Tumblr and snapchat, the critical developmental phase of adolescent self-actualization is now mediated by smartphone screens and subsumed into the online.   Screens play a vital role in the crafting of Nelson’s distinctive aesthetic.  The monitor’s high definition projection of her hybridized portraits sets a perfectionist bar, which she then sets out to meet through the slowly evolving task of painting.  This labour of the human hand, Nelson perceives as a performative act, exposing the gap between the constant striving towards digitized perfection and the flawed reality of our idiosyncratic humanity. 


For Jan Nelson, “To paint is to place value on the visual and to believe that the handmade holds relevance as something intrinsically human. To paint is to claim a position that the intuitive and the discursive together construct meaning in our lives. When considering my paintings, I am not only in the throes of doing violence on my portrait images as I pass them through consecutive cutting processes until the original is lost to a pulsating sublime, but I am also holding onto to something intrinsically felt encapsulated in the making as an appreciation of how beauty can overwhelm our senses.”

Samantha Barrow

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