Fiona Ackerman - Canadian Painter on the Rise

Herringer Kiss Gallery
May 22, 2018 8:55PM

"100 Titles", 2017, 57" x 62".

Keeping watch of Fiona Ackerman’s flourishing career will not disappoint. Since completing her BFA through Concordia and Emily Carr in 2002, her work has earned the attention of critical audiences across Canada and abroad. She received an honorable mention for the Kingston Prize for Canadian Portraiture in 2009, was was included in Carte Blanche 2: Painting, a survey and showcase of the current state of painting in Canada (published by The Magenta Foundation, Fall 2008), and was long-listed for the Sobey Prize in 2015.

And Ackerman is not slowing down. A prolific painter who pushes herself to explore new conceptual directions, she continues to break ground with each new series, moving her work forward with a refreshing energy that is characteristic of her paintings.

In addition to producing her ever-growing body of abstract series, which are represented by galleries across Canada (Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver), in the USA (Soho Myriad in Atlanta, Georgia and Los Angeles), her work has also shown in London, Berlin, Nuremberg, Munster, and Dusseldorf.

In 2017 alone, her achievements include exhibiting in BEERS London’s “Oh, Canada” exhibit (July-August 2017), completing a commission of 38 original large scale paintings for Norwegian Cruise Lines, and exhibiting two large-scale public works in Vancouver that wrapped entire buildings in paint and light projections.


Selected works commissioned by Norwegian Cruise Lines. 20" x 60". Images courtesy of the artist.

Vancouver Mural Festival, 2017.  Over 1200 sq/ft of painting at 2525 Ontario St., Vancouver, BC, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Public art video piece "Over the Garden Wall", projected onto the VAG for the Vancouver Façade Festival, commissioned by the Burrard Arts Foundation. Image courtesy of the artist.

AT A GLANCE - A look inside Ackerman’s series’

Ackerman says about her work:

Rooted in abstraction, I like to push my work in new directions, to surprise myself, and keep the limits of my painting wide open. Working in series, I develop a language specific to the mood or conceptual objectives I'm working on. Over the years, my work has seen many different stylistic evolutions. I see my arc of work much like that of an author. Each series is like a new book, different in tone, style and story. But they are all part of a larger archive, and each a meaningful piece of the whole.

While Ackerman works in a range of concept-driven series, she is foremost an abstract painter who approaches her work by keeping the limits wide open. The ‘subject’ of any given piece cannot be declared; instead, each painting is itself a manifestation of its own narrative, which Ackerman reveals through the back and forth act of composing on the canvas. Through this process, insightful narratives emerge from each painting and within each series - all transcribed in Ackerman’s own rich and recognizable vocabulary.

Studio Paintings:

Inspired by Michael Foucault’s concept of Heterotopia, these paintings explore the painted images as an ‘other space,’ simultaneously reflecting a real place, and its opposite. Stepping away from the canvas, the studio becomes the ‘other space’ where existing paintings, art supplies and studio clutter intermingle and are reinvented anew on canvas. Through their restaging, they both reflect the working studio and tell a new story.

Through this series, my exploration of studio spaces moves into other artists studios as well.The unfamiliar studios are reinvented on canvas, unfaithfully, used as a stage for new narratives.The artists whose studios I visited include: Ron Moppett, Jessica Eaton, Laurence Paul Yuxweluptun, Atilla Richard Lukacs, and Friedrick Meckseper.

Exhibitions from this series:


Mimetic Workshop: Studio Still Lifes of Fiona Ackerman and Kelly Lycan, Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey BC, Canada


Aus der Wunderkammer des Friedrich Meckseper, White Brush Gallery, Düsseldorf Germany (+ Catalog)


What has Already Been Said is Still Not Enough, Galerie Pfaff, Schwarzenbruck, Germany

It's Not You, It's Me, Winsor Gallery, Vancouver BC, Canada


Die Ordnung der Dinge, White Brush Gallery, Düsseldorf, Germany


Expeditions Through the Mirror, Galerie Claus Steinrötter, Müster, Germany

Heterotopia, Winsor Gallery, Vancouver BC, Canada

"It's Not You, It's Me", Winsor Gallery, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

"The Player" (from Friedrick Meckseper studio visit), 2013.  Oil on Canvas, 80cm x 300cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

"The Past is Prologue" (from Ron Moppett studio visit), 2013. Oil on canvas, 71" x 142". Image courtesy of the artist.

"The Formal Fugitive" (from Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun studio visit),  2013. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 60” x 75”. Image courtesy of the artist.


This series looks at the garden as both a reflection of the natural world, and an artificial construction. According to Foucault’s concept of Heterotopia, a garden is an ‘other space’ where the true wild is reflected but subversively controlled. It both imitates and contests reality by simultaneously presenting a wild environment and its opposite, an orchestrated performance of nature, and a choreography of growth.

The 27 paintings in this series emerged from a process of exploration beginning with pieces of painted paper cut in shapes of foliage, placed inside a mirror box (hence, glass-land). The resulting three-dimensional mirrored images shatter, amplify and disrupt conventional views of nature rendered n a flat surface, giving rise to lush compositions with depth and unexpected juxtapositions. In this restrained inventory of sources, the artificiality of the parts contrasted with recognizable flashes of leaves, branches, and blades of grass. Through painting, reflection becomes invention.

Exhibitions from this series:


O Canada - Beers London, London, UK

Glasslands II - Galerie Kremers, Berlin, Germany

Art Toronto (solo artist booth), Toronto ON, Canada


Glasslands I - Winsor Gallery, Vancouver BC, Canada

Spiegel im Spiegel, Galerie Kremers, Berlin, Germany

Writing about this Series:

‘Wishful Images in a Mirror’ - accompanying essay by Peter Johnson, Heterotopian Studies, Bath UK

"Glasslands 1" and "Glasslads 2",  2016. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 66" x 66". Images courtesy of the artist.

"Both Ways", 2017. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist.

"Studio Garden", 2017. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 91 x 91cm.  Image courtesy of the artist.

"Archives", 2017. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 90 x 76cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Chaos Theory:

…No work of art is created in a vacuum. Even in the smallest ways, the events of daily life, the sounds and imagery that move through us, find their way in.

Alone in the studio, to the sounds of radio, audiobooks and music, I painted as the whole world blew through the air. And yet the paintings exist outside of it all. A painting exists to absorb the whole, and offers me an opportunity to make order of the absurd.

Exhibitions from this series:


Chaos Theory, Herringer Kiss Gallery, Calgary AB, Canada

"Chaos Theory", 2015.  Acrylic on canvas, 165cm x 285cm.  Image courtesy of the artist.

"Le Mal du Pays", 2015.  Acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 66" x 66".  Image courtesy of the artist.

"The Stranger", 2015.  Acrylic on canvas, 63" x 56". Image courtesy of the artist.

Night Driving:

This series of paintings is a tribute to the long night hours, to the insomniac meditation that drives the wandering mind down dim unknown roads. At four in the morning, not all is dark. When a restless mind races, imagination is unchained, running like headlights down a dark highway. These paintings reflect the sleepless journey when ideas scatter, are born of each other, and illuminate what is shaded by day. With the exhibition at p|m gallery in mind, this series was painted as an installation, where one painting is read into the next.

Exhibitions from this series:


Night Driving, p|m Gallery, Toronto ON, Canada

Exhibition at p|m Gallery, 2015.  Image courtesy of the artist.

"The Slip", 2015.  Oil on canvas, 36" x 36".  Image courtesy of the artist.

"Dreams of Zhuang Zhou", 2014.  Acrylic on canvas, 40" x 40".  Image courtesy of the artist.


The process of working through a studio painting and an abstract painting are the same: I sort through the visual chaos I am presented with, eliminating everything non-essential. It’s a bit like listening to a room full of languages being spoken, looking for one you understand. When I think I’ve found it, I zero in on that language and compose the painting from it.

I began these paintings by unselfconsciously filling the blank canvas with colour, pattern and line. This process brings me roughly to the same point I find myself at when I enter an artist’s studio with my camera. From this point, I look for the signal. Cutting canvas down, over-painting, building it back up, I listen for a tone. When finally it is found, all else falls away and I work to bring it out. With brush in hand, I am the amplifier. From the noise, is found one unique sound.

Exhibitions from this series:


Amplifier, Herringer Kiss Gallery, Calgary AB

"Xenharmonic", 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 60" x 120". Image courtesy of the artist.

"The Echo", 2014.  Acrylic on canvas, 126" x 75".  Image courtesy of the artist.

UP NEXT - What’s in store for 2018

With no shortage of inspiration driving her work, Ackerman’s latest work adds yet another layer to her process.

Her new series of abstract paintings freely mix washes of colour with loose botanical drawing. Titled “Act Naturally,” this series approaches painting as a dance – an invented nature that is performed through delicate, deliberate steps.

The first exhibition of this fresh series, "Act Naturally," can be viewed at Herringer Kiss Gallery this April 12 - May 12, 2018.

Tracy Wormsbecker, Februrary 2018.

"Nature", 48" x 72".

"Two Stylish Painters Painting for Each Other", 64" x 54".

"North", 48" x 66".

"When by Now and Tree by Leaf", 48" x 48".

Herringer Kiss Gallery