Joy YamusangieArtist & Illustrator

London, UK. January 27th, 2021

Photo: WATA, 2020 by Joy Yamusangie and Ronan Mckenzie

Interviewed by Alexei Key

“A painting is the snapshot of the moment, while film is a way of showing what comes before, after and all around that moment.”

When I have a visual in mind, I bring it into reality by drawing thumbnails of the idea, playing around with color in my sketchbook, and imagining mediums that best suit the design. Then it’s straight into making.

I would describe my work as mixed media and illustration. I’m interested in the process of experimenting with unfamiliar materials, seeking outcomes through new mediums. Sometimes it elevates the work and other times it doesn’t work at all.

As a child, I was fascinated by the illustrations in the picture books I read. I was particularly drawn to the vibrant illustrations for the books ​Lima’s Red Hot Chilli​ and ​Handa’s Surprise. ​I didn’t realize this was something I could be till my late uncle had shown me art by so many Congolese painters, sculptors and illustrators. I felt like this was something for me.

I find inspiration from interactions, people, life, so being withdrawn from that during isolation had a static effect on my creativity for a moment. But I’ve been able to find inspiration from movies, books and other art forms.

Some things I’ve really enjoyed during lockdown that have inspired me include Polly Nor’s short film ​How Have You Been?,​ the “Lovers Rock” episode of Small Axe by Steve McQueen, and Sadé Mica’s binder series.

Joy Yamusangie for Riposte Magazine by Sirui Ma.

My latest series is ​Blue Glass Fortunes​, which is currently showing at HOME. It marked a shift in my work; I wanted to focus more on linework and step away from using text. It was also quite a personal series, as it focused on my own dreams and memories.

A painting is the snapshot of the moment, while film is a way of showing what comes before, after and all around that moment. When I worked on WATA, the film I did in collaboration with Gucci, my co-director, Ronan McKenzie, and I formed our interpretation of her story through the film. Mami Wata is a water deity whose story is known in many regions of Africa, the West Indies, and throughout the African diaspora. What initially drew me to her story were the few reports of Mami Wata shifting to a male spirit, and the descriptions of interactions that led to changed perspectives, better health and good fortune for those who encountered her.

One of my biggest inspirations is Henri Matisse, particularly his paintings, cut-outs and printmaking work. Blue is also a color I find myself deeply drawn to, also because it houses so much feeling. Before ​WATA​, it meant calm or sometimes sadness and had a strong presence in a lot of my dreams. But post-filming, it’s come to mean celebration, love and dance.

I follow so many artists online and adore their work. At the moment I’m really enjoying the abstract paintings by Daisy Parris, poetry by Abondance Matanda, and the comics by Lee Lai.

Blue Mirror, 2020. Photo by Vanessa Peterson.
River Boys, 2020. Photo by Vanessa Peterson.
Blue Glass Fortunes, 2019. Photo by Beers London.
Phantasm – The American in the Middle, 2019.
Looking Back, Looking Blue. Photo by Lee Baxter.
The Musician (Close up).


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