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Janet Frame's Journal, 1997

Title after New Zealand writer Janet Frame

Series 9 mixed media paintings; object on left: oil on linen; object on right: body rubbed with charcoal and stamped on paper, then ironed on linen via heat transfer

18” x 18” each

Exhibition: Galerie Horace, Sherbrooke, Quebec; Kunsthaus Santa Fé, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico


Interactive element: The 9 paintings can be interchanged to form different body configurations as per the artist’s or curator’s desire to create figured or disfigured combinations


The series was inspired by Janet Frame, a favourite writer from New Zealand whose shyness was diagnosed as schizophrenia. She subsequently spent seven years in a mental institution, from whence her first books were published thanks to her sister’s initiative. Later, they told her she hadn’t been schizophrenic after all. Unable to determine “what, in all the world, [she could] do to earn [her] living and still live as [herself], as [she] knew [herself] to be”, she tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide. The surface of the linen is visually divided down the centre, the left being the rational, the right the irrational. The left side depicts an object used to attempt suicide. This object is rendered in a realistic style using oil paint, indicative of the rational. The right side consists of various parts of the body where one would inflict the pain indicated by the object. The stampings are, by nature, foggy, shadowy, somehow irrational. The contrast between the rational and the irrational is therefore emphasised visually and a dynamic is created between the left and right side. Director Jane Campion made a biographical movie about Janet Frame, called An Angel at My Table.

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