An undercurrent of duality runs through the oeuvre of artist Jwan Yosef.
Be it man or materiality, inclusion or exclusion, or sculpture or painting, the artist’s vision must always be viewed through multiple lenses.
Syrian by birth, Swedish by upbringing, the 34-year-old Yosef was born into a world where his identity was somewhat in flux.
Because his Kurdish father and Greek Orthodox mother came from different backgrounds,
it became necessary for the Yosefs to relocate to a place where they could raise their family without barriers.
“My family moved to Sweden when I was two years old, so I had no recollection of my life in Syria,” says Yosef.
“My immediate family had a very protective point of view for us as children, but later we discovered the taboos of the culture we came from and the taboo of my parent’s marriage.
It led to a very complex but very joyous upbringing.”
Trained at Konstfack in Stockholm, it wasn’t until he moved to London to earn his Masters in Fine Arts at Central Saint Martins in 2011 that Yosef “faced down his duality,” both in life and in art.
“People would ask me where I was from, and say, ‘You don’t look Swedish.’ To me, London became this turning point.
ILLUMINATED IDENTITY In a way, the more I’ve worked, the more I understand this search.
(My work) touches on both the religious and political movements that have been going on in the Middle East, but it’s also a search… for identity.”
Initially eschewing painting because “it felt too heavy,” Yosef began his career by gravitating to materials such as paper or Plexiglas.
Defining each as “holy” (aka oil paint) or “unholy” (acrylic glass), he landed on a tactile yet non-traditional methodology, one that garnered him both
the Columbia Threadneedle Prize and the Beers Contemporary Award for Emerging Art in 2013.
Allowing the medium to drive his message,
the artist’s latest works in his current show, Come September,
The Goss-Michael Foundation is figurative—Syrian dictator Hafez Al Assad,
Yosef’s father, Ahmad, and movie star Rock Hudson—though crushed so far down on their wooden frames, they’re almost unrecognizable.
“Rock Hudson for my mother was her biggest idol, but for me, he was almost a sad, fallen figure.
I’m choosing to show these figures in a way that they are distorted images of a person. By destroying (the canvases),
ILLUMINATED IDENTITY it becomes portraiture in these cases of unfortunate or fortunate fallen figures.”
For more information: ฮานอยสามัคคี