Taranaki based artist, Jana Branca completed a BA(Fine Art) in South Africa at the University of Pretoria. Growing up, she enjoyed opportunities of travelling abroad with her family, and having lived on 3 continents, her interest in cultures, world-views, and humanity was cultivated.
In relocating to New Zealand in 2016, with her husband and two boys, Jana found herself, once again, submerged in an entirely new environment. Through this experience, she came to see the common denominator of our humanity; as the crown of creation; as more fundamental than any of our differences, prompting a new direction in her work.
Portraiture has become a vehicle through which Jana visually processes aspects of our ‘human condition’. The frustrating boundaries and restrictions which we all contend with and a deep conviction of the intrinsic value of humankind are some of the themes that run throughout her work.
More recently, she has become particularly intrigued by the universally necessary guide of world-views and how it directs our understanding of truth, meaning, reality, and, ultimately, our attempt in making sense of the world around us.
Jana is drawn to the tension of creating an impression of someone, whilst celebrating the mediums used as the ‘fabric’ of the impression - the paint, the brush and the canvas or board. By revealing not only the physical materials with which the work is made but also the hand which created it, she hopes to achieve an honesty and sense of authenticity.
Her painting process involves building the picture plane with brush or knife strokes, whilst leaving parts of the canvas undeveloped emulating the effect that the progression of time has on our ‘character’.
She aims to enable the viewer to trace her brush, offering them a ‘window’ into the past whilst illuminating the obscurity of it. Her constructional process further alludes to how situations and moments in life might influence, build and shape us, rendering us a perpetual ‘work in progress’.
As a recurring sub-theme, Jana makes specific reference to our relational capacity. Deciphering non-verbal cues from each other is part of our daily functioning and by using the subjects’ names or nicknames as the title of some works, the viewer is invited to engage with the figures as individuals.
Jana’s work has been recognised and exhibited by art institutions such as the Pretoria Arts Association, Sasol New Signatures and the Ekurhuleni Mnyele Fine art awards. More recently, she has been a finalist in the Tasman National Art Awards, where she won the ‘People’s Choice’ award twice (2019 & 2021) as well as the Supreme art award in 2022. She was selected as a finalist at the Adam Portraiture Awards (2020 and 2022) hosted by the NZ Portrait Gallery in Wellington, and won the Committee's Choice award at the Taranaki National Art Awards in 2020.