“I’ve learned more about the work that I would like to do”: Joy Yamusangie gives us an update from the past year
The artist (and previous Ones to Watch 2020) has spent the last year slowing things down and experimenting with new processes.
- Ayla Angelos
- 10 May 2021
Since we last spoke, Joy Yamusangie has gone on to do some wonderful things. Whether that’s a vinyl cover, a lockdown self-portrait or a print design for a collection with Carnations London, Joy has continued to impress us with their wide-spanning portfolio of projects and techniques, covering all sorts of processes from drawing and film to painting and collage.
But like many practicing artists today, Joy has faced a few hurdles over the course of the pandemic. With work halted and having to adjust to the challenges of working from home, it’s safe to say that the artist has endured a few stepping stones. “Finding motivation to create new work has been my biggest challenge and no longer having a studio has been an adjustment,” they tell It’s Nice That. “It’s only in the last few months that I’ve settled and felt ready to start thinking about creating new things while taking it slow.”
With this new mindset, Joy has been able to put their mind towards a plethora of projects and commissions. The latest being a collaboration with Carnations, a London-based made-to-order clothing company that focuses on environmentally and socially responsible design. Priding itself on collaboration, too, Carnations will often work with designers and artists alike; those who share the same ethos when it comes to creativity. So when Joy had a Zoom chat with the company’s founder, Sarah, they were more than excited about the possibility of working together. “It was during lockdown and I remember we spoke a lot about all the things we missed doing, even things that felt small like hugging our friends hello,” Joy recalls. “There wasn’t really a brief, but we both wanted to make something that felt fun and reminiscent of summer days pre-lockdowns. From there I made a few small paintings of people together, holding each other and people kissing.”
The thought of hugging someone might now feel alien to most, but once you observe the collaboration between Joy and Carnations, it’s as if you’ve stepped back in time to a world of normalcy. The artist’s signature line work and squiggly characters are placed centre stage, while colourful blocks of blues, reds and blacks add flair and personality to the drawings. Printed in a repetitive pattern, the designs adorn every inch of the collection – be it a bucket hat or button down shirt – and swaps any bare fabric for a more joyful, busy and intimate creation.
Working with Carnations has been a new experience for Joy, as it’s the first time they’ve dabbled in the realms of fashion. “The process feels a lot longer,” they explain. “Usually I draw and that’s it, but with this there was a lot of test printing, tweaking colours, considerations for how the paintings are printed and applied. It was great to work with a collaborator who had knowledge in these areas.”
Besides this, Joy has also reverted back to a few of their older techniques. This includes lino and screen printing, which the artist used in abundance within their earlier portfolio. Adding texture, layers and an analogue feel to their art, it’s been a refreshing return for Joy. “It’s been a while, so it does feel like a new medium that I’m re-learning,” they add. “Though I love the print outcome, it’s the carving process that I enjoy the most; it requires a lot of patience and time which I think before last year I didn’t have a lot of.” This new (and old) approach can be seen through an abundance of their recent offerings, like a moody and detailed portrait titled Blacks and Blues, a punchy piece using all but a few shades of blue.
Joy has also found the time to explore a new method, which involves transferring the lino portraits into print form, as seen in a recent commission for Absolut Art, “which I feel quite proud to share as it’s a bit different from my usual works”. Otherwise, they also illustrated the cover for C.L.R James’ novel Minty Alley, one of their favourite projects to date considering they’re a huge fan of the writer’s work. It’s also Joy’s debut book cover, and sees a characteristic ensemble of vibrant colour paired with squiggly writing, little detailed illustrations, a printed house and friendly character.
Clearly, Joy has been keeping busy. But even if the workload has slowed down slightly over the last 12 months, they’ve found the positives in it all; they’ve managed to take the time to work on the things they love. “I’ve learned more about the work that I would like to do and work that I don’t,” they say, citing literary commissions as being one of those enjoyable projects. We’re not quite sure where Joy’s work will head next, but if this latest update is anything to go by, then expect the next 12 months to be filled with even more firsts and surprises.
Joy Yamusangie: A Blues Night (Copyright © Joy Yamusangie, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.