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Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Head of Creative Gosia Walak interviews London based contemporary artist Joanne Yulan about her series of new original paintings available exclusively through HD Buttercup, Los Angeles.

For more than ten years, London based creative director and designer Joanne Yulan Jong has been quietly painting.

Her work has been acquired by private collectors internationally and she can also be found working on commissions for special projects. The pandemic gave the artist a perfect opportunity to focus on her work and we are delighted to have a series of original paintings that will be released and available exclusively through HD Buttercup.

In this interview, Head of Creative, Gosia Walak interviews Joanne about her paintings, her inspiration, process and optimism for the arts.

1 - You are known as a creative director and designer. When did you start your career as an artist?

I was fortunate that my parents saw my leaning towards everything creative, from a very early age and although my father was academic they both encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts. I graduated from Edinburgh College of art then went on to a masters degree at the Royal College of Art. I became a fashion designer progressing to creative director and went on to work for many years in Milan for luxury fashion houses.

I found that whatever I was creating, even when directing photoshoots, the first thing I would do to articulate ideas was to sketch on paper. I have been drawing, sketching and painting throughout my career. I have always found it is the most direct way to communicate and for me, the most instant, and sensitive process.

Ten years ago, I began painting. One summer I decided that it was just something I wanted to focus on, so I went to visit friends in Tuscany to clear my head. At the time they were living in a wing of a beautiful historic ‘palazzo' just outside Florence. I took over the top floor for a month and began to experiment with different materials and began to paint. That is where it all began.

2 - You say your upbringing was academic- where did the creative spirit come from?

My mother was a huge influence, although sadly she died when I was only 19. She was a talented potter, painted and was very creative. I am sure she had a big influence in persuading my father to allow me to go to art college. I come from a family of four children and don’t remember being able to get so much one to one time with her growing up. However, one, very clear memory I do have, when I was around ten years old, is of her taking me to paint watercolour paintings of autumn trees in the beautiful Deeside countryside.

3 - What is the inspiration behind this series of artworks?

This series of abstract artworks are a continued development of my current theme both in terms of materials and concept. I’m not a native Chinese speaker and was brought up in Scotland. At the time I started painting I began learning Mandarin and was so intrigued to learn about the language and history of characters. I began to look closely at the symbols, dissect the strokes within the characters into their various elements, explore the study of positive and negative spaces and reconstruct them.

4 - Your work looks very spontaneous. What’s your process?

They may look that way but they are anything but. I have always been inspired by process-driven art and have developed my technique. The compositions are sketched and studied beforehand. I work on the floor to paint these works, so when I’m ready I will prepare the studio floor with sheets of hand made paper. For this series I was using Chinese inks on Indian hand made paper.

When I begin the process I can be quite nervous in that any wrong stroke or movement is permanent. That's why for each composition I have had several sheets that I work on simultaneously. I may have three of four sheets and many timers going at the same time as I wait for various intensities and layers of ink to dry. So although it does look spontaneous, for every artwork that is finally exhibited or framed, there are many iterations before the final painting.

5 - What do you hope to convey through your artwork?

I’m intrigued with bringing old and ancient influences and making them relevant. I don’t intend to just reproduce calligraphy but am inspired by it. I am creating something abstract, that plays with composition, positive and negative spaces and artworks that feel like they are constantly moving. Like with calligraphy you can feel the movement of the artist's hand moving across the surface of the canvas or paper. It’s like capturing a movement a moment in time. Timeless.

6 - Are you an optimist or pessimist?

I’m an optimist. The pandemic has given us all time to really think about what is important to us. Positive causes such as sustainability, diversity and equality have come to the forefront and there is a groundswell of activism and support. Equally, it has been the catalyst for people to become far more creative again, in a “hands-on” way. Things like baking, pottery, sewing, music, drawing, painting, all creative processes which we can control from start to finish ourselves, producing a tangible result at the end. There is real joy in rediscovering that.


The selection of new artworks will be available in the USA from HD Buttercup.

Find out more about my other works you can see a selection here.

To view works in person or other inquiries contact Gloucester Room


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