Ebb and Flow, 2021 Acrylic on canvas 30 x 40cm

Ebb and Flow was made at a crucial point in Ortanez’s practice. It exists as a reaction to choices in previous works, emanated by a sense of uncertainty and commitment towards her art. This work leans completely into abstraction, representing the shift within her practice aesthetically, and conceptually. With suggestions of her own body layered within the piece through a soft palette, it contrasts the harshness and clear contrasts of shape and colour in her previous work ‘Interrogation of Self’ (2020-21). This kind of introspection dominates Ortanez’s artmaking process, bordering between self deprecation and developing a self awareness of her practice. These thoughts parallel her experiences with identity as a Filipino-Australian immigrant.

In earlier works, Ortanez steered clear of making within the representation of her cultural identity, with the wish to be defined and seen through another lens. Knowing this stemmed from insecurities she had growing up as an immigrant—with wanting to assimilate and adopt “Australian” conventions—it hindered her practice and ability to create works sincerely. Although she had the intention of creating works that had no semblance of her background, it came into realisation that this decision to steer clear from references to identity was subconsciously referencing her history to inform her practice. The conflict between creating within the obligation of her inherent identity and wanting to create work completely devoid of references to culture can be framed within the notion of colonial mentality and surrendering to Western conventions.

Looking further into the idea of colonial mentality with the wish to actively work against its hold against herself and her practice, she begun to delve into self-portraiture as a step into no longer rejecting her sense of self. The decision to work within abstraction, layering, and collage as a means to depict pluralities and the hybridity of identity also played a part in challenging the representation of the ethnic female body—reorienting a historically Western patriarchal tool of art: painting.
Jana Ortanez
Instagram @janaortanez

Jana Ortanez is an emerging Filipino-Australian artist working on unceded Darug and Gadigal lands. Recently completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) at UNSW Art & Design, Ortanez works within a multidisciplinary practice, using drawing and photography to create references for painted works. Her works touch on notions of diasporic identity through self-portraiture, employing collage and abstraction to convey experiences of existing within multiple spaces of community and culture. Currently, her art practice delves into critiquing the representation of women of colour in painting, seeking to reorient the medium by taking charge of how her body is now being depicted. Her works reconfigure the idea of painting as a medium existing as a historically Western patriarchal tool of representation.

Whilst completing a Bachelor in Fine Arts (Honours) at UNSW Art & Design from 2017-2020, Jana was selected as a finalist in the 2020 Jenny Birt Award for her painting ‘Interrogation of
Self’ (2020). She has been involved in several group shows, previously exhibiting her work at Kudos Gallery, Goodspace Gallery, AIRspace Projects, and more recently at Firstdraft, and Pari in 2021.

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