Made and Unmade: The Ambivalent Objects of Jwan Yosef

Jwan Yosef loves creating “ambivalent objects”, that is, compositions that are caught between the structures of a painting and a sculpture. In his Object series (2014), he stretches pieces of canvas—both plain white and those with portraits—across frames without covering the entire area, ending up with strange, incomplete works of art.

In his Masking series (2016), he places pairs of acrylic sheets next to each other, separated only by a minute space. The feeling of rupture is enhanced by a neatly painted yellow strip of masking tape going from one sheet to the other in what seems like an attempt to mend the broken whole, or at least, to connect two strictly separate entities. There is something deliberately naive about the bits of masking tape—as if applied to a broken vase, shattered and put together by a guilty child in denial of his fault.

Jwan’s stripped down approach, his practice of making and unmaking is not merely an experiment in formalism. It is also, he says, an autobiographical pursuit. The processes of initiation and withdrawal found in his works are “self-referential”. Just like his paintings/sculptures, he has lived a simultaneously confusing and adventurous life of “in-between” states—in terms of culture and belief, nation and geography—constantly searching for approval and anchor, wondering about the (un)importance of belonging.


Jwan Yosef


Born in 1984 in the Syrian city of Ras al-Ayn to an Armenian Christian mother and a Kurdish Muslim father (a clearly conflicting pairing at the time), Jwan grew up in Sweden. He obtained his BFA from Konstfack (University of Arts, Crafts and Design) in Stockholm in 2009 and MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins in London in 2011. He now lives in Beverly Hills with his spouse, superstar Ricky Martin, and their twin sons.

Jwan’s recent solo/group shows include Stene Projects, Stockholm (2016), Kamarade, Stockholm (2015), Hartslane, London (2015), The Goss-Michael foundation, Dallas (2015), De Markten, Brussels (2015), Divus Gallery, London (2013), UMELEC, Prague/Vienna (2013), Beers Contemporary, London (2013), Galleri Anna Thulin, Stockholm (2013) and Kulturhuset, Stockholm (2012). He has participated and been awarded the Beers Contemporary Award for Emerging Art (2013) and The Threadneedle Prize (2013). His work is part of the private art Collections such as ONE2 Collection (Boston, US) and Copelouzos Collection (Athens, Greece) and in the Public Art Collection of Karolinska (Solna, Sweden).

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