When Canadian abstract artist and rug designer Janna Watson starts the creative process, her strokes of paint take centre stage, so to say, and her compositions become theatrical displays of multi-colour waves woven in thick and thin contrasts against solid-colour backdrops. Colour is the main protagonist in the pigment-filled narrative, or ‘moments’, as Watson likes to call it. This narrative is merely facilitated, or ‘staged’ by Watson, and gradually expands into its own meaning.
Janna Watson (37) lives and works in Toronto, where she also runs her rug studio, Studio Watson. Established as an abstract painter with an Honours Degree in Painting and Drawing from Ontario College of Art and Design, her compositions have traveled across Canada and the United States. She’s held over thirty solo exhibitions, over thirty-five group exhibitions, and has sixteen collections in numerous public spaces in Toronto, Vancouver, New York, and Calgary.
Some of Watson’s notable public collections include her 11-foot painting for the lobby in Aura, one of Toronto’s tallest skyscrapers, Saks Fifth Avenue, the Ritz-Carlton, TD Bank, Microsoft, Soho Metropolitan Hotel, ONi ONE, Hudson Bay NYC, and CIBC among others. Additionally, Watson’s paintings have international reach and exposure at various art fairs like Art Toronto, CONTEXT Art Miami, and the Seattle Art Fair.
Staging Moments in Abstraction and Textiles
Janna follows the colourful footstep-laden path left by her grandfather, Arthur Bonnett, who was a landscape and abstract painter, who studied at the Pratt Institute in New York, as well as a rug designer. He used to give Janna painting lessons and instilled the essence of wildness in her as an artist and designer, she explains, ‘once he sent me out to the back field of his farm where his home studio was and told me to go draw the essence of a tree. When I came back with my sketch he critiqued by saying, ‘It was okay, but it needed to be wilder’.
Watson’s inspiration comes from the wildness in ‘objects and moments’ and is almost palpable when viewing her paintings, which are equal inspirations echoed in her hand-tufted and hand-knotted rugs, manufactured for her by Ifrah Ansari, who operates a weaving mill in India – these rugs can be found in Studio Watson, where they are designed and created with unique colours and patterns.
Studio Watson also segues into stylish cat condos, each with its own scratch pad with tailored textiles chosen and created by Janna Watson. As a cat lover, and in honour of the loss of her own cat, Baby, Watson wanted to produce cat scratchers covered in more aesthetically pleasing textiles and not the ‘horrible, gross, beige industrial carpet’ found on so many mass produced cat scratchers, while still being practical for cats’ needs. Studio Watson sources non-toxic, cat-friendly and durable materials and accepts orders for custom-made cat condos, additionally, cat scratchers are sold through Studio Watson’s online shop.
As a contemporary abstract artist, Janna Watson’s, almost otherworldly, compositions play alongside (and outside) the lines of other artists she admires, namely, Joan Mitchell, an American second generation Abstract Expressionist, considered a primary female artist in the early 1950s, and Wanda Koop, an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Canada. Many avid art lovers will sense the reverberating notes from forefathers of Abstract Expressionism (Wassily Kandinsky, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock among others) strung by Watson’s own wild brush strokes.
Latest Works and Events
Janna Watson is currently working on a latest commission for home developers, Aspac, and recently completed a rug for the lobby in the Drake Hotel, Toronto (renovations set for completion by Autumn 2021), and a hand-knotted rug based on one of Watson’s paintings for the boardroom of the Hyatt Hotel.
Additionally, Watson is also showing a solo exhibition in the Bau-Xi Gallery in Vancouver, titled ‘Finding Joy’, which is inspired by her niece’s (Joy) wild spirit and spontaneous nature, an essence Watson explains as the key to creating moments in her painting practise, escaping from and returning to reality, ‘my work is about constantly ‘becoming’ and capturing moments of energy’. Her current and past works can be viewed on her Instagram page (@jannawww), Facebook page, and website.