Artist and illustrator Joey Yu is one of the guest judges for Jackson’s Art Prize 2024. In this interview, she tells us about her practice, the work that has inspired her, and her advice to artists selecting work to enter Jackson’s Art Prize this year. EDIT
Interview with Joey Yu
Josephine: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
Joey: My name is Joey Yu, I’m an illustrator and also an artist. I do lots of hand-drawn work, sketching things super quickly when I’m out and about and trying to capture a scene as it kind of unfolds around me. Or taking themes and memories and different subject matter, and then composing all of those images together to feel like a reportage. I use pencils, crayons, gouache, paint, and I like to collage a lot of different mediums to create my pieces.
Josephine: What have been your proudest achievements in your career?
Joey: I think some of my proudest achievements in my career have probably been those opportunities where it’s allowed me to travel to places that I’ve never dreamed of going to. A few years ago, going to Brazil, I went to this tiny little village and that was incredible. And then last year I went to Jeju Island, which is in South Korea. I did a little exhibition there and it was just incredible to dream about a place and see pictures of it online, and have my artwork be the thing that took me there. Also, any chance where my work becomes something physical and gets applied to other things. Last year I did a line of clothing with an independent designer that I really love called Rhi Dancey. We printed my artworks on clothing and it was just incredible to see it in that sphere.
Josephine: Who are the artists or artworks, and exhibitions you’ve been most inspired by this past year?
Joey: I was super inspired when I went to go and see the Christo and Jeanne-Claude exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery called Boundless. It was really, really cool to see their work. They did a lot of sketches in preparation for their big installation pieces, and this exhibition covered a lot of the drawings they did, and it was incredible to see a long, long history and a body of work over a long period of time. They did these drawings way in advance and sometimes don’t do the installations until years later. I thought it was really inspiring to see how they persevere and stick at it, and have these dreams and hold these dreams for a really long time.
I also found it emotional when I went to the Women in Revolt! exhibition at Tate Britain. I was really lucky to go on the opening night, so lots of the actual artists were there and just seeing their faces when they were young in the artwork, and seeing them as older artists now was really inspiring. It just made me think about legacy, and putting people in the spotlight that should be there, and I got really excited about all the work that I’m going to do in the future.
Josephine: How important do you think awards and competitions are for artists today?
Joey: I think it’s really, really good to take part in these competitions and put yourself forward for things like this. I was really lucky when I left university. I won a graduate award and I felt like that just gave me a sense of “okay, I’m on the right track”, and recognition from people that weren’t my immediate peers. It just felt like it was something real and tangible. Also, just taking part and putting yourself forward is really important for your practice, I think. To get away from the fear of winning or losing, just making it a practice to be brave and take part.
Another reason why entering a competition like the Jacksons Art Prize is so valuable is the chance to exhibit your work. Some people have never exhibited their work before and it could be the first time, or the first time showing in a group show. It’s just something that’s super affirming, and can make you feel really proud.
Josephine: This is the first time that each judge chooses the winner of their own Judges Choice Award. What will you be looking for in the entries?
Joey: It’s super exciting because I have no idea what to expect! I think I’m going to be looking for something that feels fresh and feels like they’re exploring something new. Also because I love colour, I’d be quite interested to see people using colour an interesting way, and the way they apply their materials in a new way would be fun to see.
Josephine: Do you have any advice for artists out there thinking about entering Jackson’s Art Prize this year?
Joey: I think my advice would be to not stress about what to enter. I always think it’s interesting to get a friend’s perspective. Talk through your pieces with someone else and they might see something in your work that you haven’t seen yourself. What ones stand out to them? Which ones do they find interesting? It could shine a new light on a piece that you haven’t really considered before.