Janet McKenzie was born in eastern Victoria, Australia and studied at the Australian National University (History of Art/Philosophy) and the Canberra School of Art (etching). She taught at the Canberra School of Art, the Victorian College of the Arts and the City Art Institute, Sydney (now College of Fine Art, UNSW) designed and exhibited handmade clothing and published: Drawing in Australia, Contemporary Images and Ideas, (1986) and Noel Counihan (1986).
In 1986 Janet McKenzie married the architect Michael Spens and moved to Scotland the following year where she settled permanently. Whilst raising a family her studio practice was primarily painting; Wormiston Wood on Fife Ness and the Isle of Skye and Tuscany, Italy were her main sources of inspiration. She continued writing and publishing and completed her Doctorate at the University of St Andrews on The Art of Arthur Boyd, under the supervision of Professor Martin Kemp, published by Thames and Hudson (2000).
Janet McKenzie co-edited Studio International with Michael Spens 2000-13. Recent work includes the major publication Contemporary Drawing Australia (2012), and Moving Beyond, Painting in China, 2013 (Nanjing) to accompany the exhibition she curated with the poets Yang Lian and Zhaoye for the Edinburgh Festival at Summerhall (29 July-16 September). She has also embarked on Drawing on Two Worlds, a practice-led research project using collaborative drawing to explore issues of identity and dispossession in Scotland and Australia, for which she was awarded funding by Creative Scotland and Fife Council for a large-scale installation, entitled Embarkation. She made a suite of seven chainsaw woodcuts, in January 2013, for her exhibition Embarkation: Drawing on Two Worlds at Langford 120 Gallery in Melbourne (April 2013).
Michael Spens died on 28 March this year, 18 years after the discovery of renal cell carcinoma. Studio International, The Arts Newspaper, The Scotsman, The Age, Melbourne and the Canberra Times all published excellent obituaries. The funeral service at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in St Andrews with eulogies by Arthur Watson PRSA, Richard Demarco and author Christopher Rush, and conducted by Canon Jonathon Mason was beautiful. The loss of Michael, husband of 27 years has been utterly disorienting, and it has been impossible to work until August, and then only with expert assistance of friend Arthur Watson.