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National Open Art: Joanna Hulin

Joanna Hulin's work has recently been shortlisted with the chance of being exhibited in the Royal College of Art. Her painting titled 'December 5th' is a beautiful work and appealed to me because of the use of texture. I was also drawn to the work because of how the artist had chosen to present it within a circular composition. I wanted to learn more about this piece of work so I hope you enjoy learning about Joanna's creation.

The shortlisted work for the competition can all be seen online. It is up to the general public to vote for the work they want to be seen in the Royal College of Art. Make sure you Vote for Joanna so she's in with a chance! She gets my Vote! The link can be found below:

What was the Inspiration behind December 5th?

A lot of my work is taken from imagery that could be considered quite controversial – so this part usually puts a lot of people off! A lot of events throughout the past few years have inspired me to look at how we look at subjects such as death and mortality as a culture, particularly when presented visually. I think it’s unnecessarily shunned when there are aspects of it that have a lot of beauty. For example, the hand in this painting is taken from an autopsy photo. Although the figure is dead, it seemed strangely graceful and intimate, especially after realising that this photo is one of the last ever taken of that person. A ‘last portrait’, in a sense, of how they are remembered.  I wanted to see whether translating that into a painting made any difference to how people responded to it.

In the terms of composition, why did you choose to present the work within a circle?

I wanted to try something different. Most canvases you see are either square or rectangular, and I saw some for sale and thought, “why not?” It gives a different challenge as to how manage composition – I feel that this painting in particular would not be as effective if it were painted on a square canvas. I’ve also heard it described as ‘eye-like’ or ‘looking through a peephole’ so it adds to the whole intrusive aspect of the work, which was really interesting to me.

Your technique and use of texture within the piece is beautiful! Do any artists influence this in particular?

A lot of it is influenced by the ‘alla prima’ technique, which means ‘all at once’ in Italian. It’s practised by lots of oil painters who wanted to finish the entire painting in a few sittings instead of the traditional method of waiting for hundreds of thin glazes to dry. A good example is Van Gogh or John Singer Sargent, though in all honesty this is probably just because I can be very impatient! Some of the more contemporary painters I admire include Justin Mortimer, Andrew Salgado, Benjamin Bjorklund, Lou Ros, and Jenny Saville… I could go on.

What would it mean to you to have your work shown in the Royal College of Art?

I really don’t know! It’s been such a rollercoaster as I’ve only just graduated, and I was very surprised to be shortlisted at all. There are a lot of artists I recognise in the shortlist whom I quite respect, so if I were to exhibit next to them I’d be really flattered. I’m happy for the opportunity in general for people to see my work, but of course I would be absolutely delighted if it made the cut.


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