Education: Edinburgh College of Art 1985-1989
Post Graduate: Royal College of Art, London 1989-2001
Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2001, Joanne Yulan Jong has worked as a fashion and textile designer, creative director and illustrator, dividing her time between Milan and London. Her design work has always been informed by her eye for simple, elegant forms and a restricted palette of colours.
Her passion for drawing, often with inks and charcoals, has led her back to creating art in its purest form - painting. Her paintings and drawings, using traditional medium such as inks, watercolours, charcoals and oils to industrial floor varnish, often reflect her Chinese heritage. She identifies herself, as an artist, using her Chinese name, Yulan.
With a background in design, Yulan is happy to undertake private commissions and has frequently been asked to create site specific pieces for interior designers and private collectors.
When Yulan connects her paintbrush to the paper she works on, there is no room for indecision- she has a matter of seconds to produce a mark before the ink or paint dries permanently. The spontaneity of her gestures suggest the calligraphy roots and have the fluidity of a handwritten word. These symbols, however, are made unconsciously and capture the automatic movement of the artist's hand as it dances across the surface.
Although the movements in her works appear spontaneous, hours of practice in the time-honoured techniques of ink painting underpin Yulan's processes. Thick sheets of handmade cotton rag papers are carefully primed with thin layers of diluted watercolour to soften and colour the surface.
EQUALLY INSPIRED BY CALLIGRAPHY, ARCHITECTURE AND THE STUDY OF POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE SPACES
Chinese inks are thinned to improve its translucency and flow and are carefully loaded onto a wide range of brushes, from traditional, genuine Chinese calligraphy brushes to industrial paint brushes.
The ensuing distribution of pigment determines the length, opacity, viscosity and flexibility of the line. If the surface is too wet, the ink too thick, the ambient temperature of the room too warm, or the paper dries too quickly the work will fail. The success of each painting depends on all of these elements aligning harmoniously before the artist can begin. Yulan's interest in process-painting recalls the heroic works of Abstract Expressionism that dominated mid-century Western Art.
In a recent body of work, Yulan departs from pure abstraction in favour of line drawings, portraits of heroes both men and women, delicately painted in gouache over painted onto coloured layers of oil paint, offset by the vintage sheets of paper, discovered at flea markets in Paris. These illustrative pieces reveal the artists training in anatomy, a skill acquired through years of professional work in the fashion industry.
Whether abstract or figurative, Yulan's repertoire of visual mark-making appears like cosmological maps, tracing coordinates that float in space. She will often paint with the paper on the floor in '360', moving around the work free from traditional orientations of landscape and portrait. The resultant work feels suspended from gravity, directing our eyes across all quadrants in a game of two-dimensional choreography.
Yulan lives and works between her studio in Buckinghamshire and London.