Jan Ollner



Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Jan Ollner moved to Montreal in 2004 to complete a degree in Studio Arts at Concordia University. Since graduation, he has lived in Toronto.

Jan Ollner creates paintings that both trigger and resist nostalgia. For the artist, painting is a visual intervention or a way to destabilize the image and its context. Removing any referential details from the original image through abstraction, Ollner’s spectral interpretations possess their own logic and at times portray a surreal universe that seems to move beyond representational hierarchy or conventions. In doing so, the specific subject matter of the original image – portrait, still life, or landscape – becomes a symbol or archetype that reflects the psychology of human experience. Negotiating the duality of fact and fiction in his compositions, the artist constructs uncanny scenarios, personas, and places to engage the imaginations of beholders.

Achieving a balance between the application of paint and narrative is a significant aspect of Ollner’s artistic process. Commenting on his latest series, Ollner states “I want to use painting as a means to escape my past influences and techniques, and toy with the possibility of visual progress. Each painting should act as a reflection of its base elements as an image distilled. In order to achieve that perfect balance between figuration and abstraction every painting needs to be a visual gamble, where the image needs to fight its way to the surface from beneath the material. This series is an exploration of that struggle and hopefully bears the scars of its production.”

In an attempt to break from traditional and digital image reproduction and push boundaries of conventional representation, Ollner’s painting style ironically borrows from photography’s currency but ultimately feigns the effect of reality and undermines any claim to truth. Like ruins of the once great Greco-Roman monuments or raw precipice made smooth over time, Jan Ollner’s paintings are reminiscent of shared faint memories, both familiar and removed.

– Edited by Karie Liao


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