Meet the Maker: Joe Fan

Meet the Maker

At the Kit Kemp Design Studio, we are huge fans of Joe Fan! Joe is a figurative painter who works using traditional techniques. We love the quality, subtlety and detail of his work...

At the Kit Kemp Design Studio, we are huge fans of Joe Fan! Joe is a figurative painter who works using traditional techniques. We love the quality, subtlety and detail of his work.

In Ham Yard Bar & Restaurant in London, we have Fan’s outstanding artworks ‘The Painter’ (2014) and the diptych ‘Family Outing’ (2014). The soft undertones of these paintings work well with the strong yellow and orange hues in the space. These paintings add a calm touch of surrealism to this dynamic scheme.

An unexpected way of contemplating Joe Fan’s work is by transforming the painting into a modern table top. In the Caribbean Suite which we designed for Turnell and Gigon, we added bold Perspex legs to create an unexpected, modern touch.

In New York, the enormous height of the Crosby Bar’s ceilings meant we could overscale the pictures. We installed two very large oil paintings by Joe Fan, a dreamlike feast to whet the appetite, ‘The Wine Drinker’ was the perfect fit for the restaurant.

At Ham Yard Hotel, ‘A Winter’s Tale’ depicting people climbing ladders and trees into other worlds, works wonderfully as a table top in the entrance. We added vibrant blue perspex legs to make the piece really stand out.

2. Where do you find inspiration?

I’ve always been interested in the early Renaissance artists, where their landscapes often looked carefully designed, constructed and “staged”. In my work the recurring use of the “garden” theme is very much inspired and influenced by that particular manner of thinking.

Joe Fan was born in Hong Kong in 1962. He came to Scotland in the late 1970s and later applied for a place at Gray’s School of Art to study Fine Art.

After much acclaim and numerous prizes, Joe continues to live and work in Aberdeen. He is a member of the Scottish Royal Academy. This week, we had the opportunity to talk to Joe about his work and inspiration.

1. The art world is a complicated one, when did you start to paint?

I was always drawing when I was young, my mum told me she often found my doodling all over the family furniture! It was when I came to Aberdeen to study English as a foreign student that I discovered Grays School of Art. It was then that I decided that drawing and painting was what I wanted to do, so I began my four years Honours degree course.

3. When we admire your paintings, they feel dreamlike and melancholic. What do you aim to express?

I work mostly from my imagination and my landscapes are not based on any particular place. Perhaps that is why my paintings have this other-worldly, dream-like, surreal ambiance about them.

Painting is a solitary pursuit and you often spend days on your own in your studio. My work is sometimes about one’s journey through life and its narrative. This reflects the melancholy mood which appears naturally in my work. The different aspects of genre painting, such as landscape, still-life and portraiture have always been of interest to me.

I particularly admire artists who have their own personal take on their subject, for example Cezanne’s apples, Van Gogh’s chair and Picasso’s portrait. In my work, I am trying to do the same and to create something of my own.

4. You were a lecturer before dedicating yourself full time to painting. Do you have any advice on making the jump?

I was offered a teaching job two years after I graduated from Grays and I taught there for about ten years. I enjoyed working with the students and find my own work greatly benefited from that experience.

5. Can you tell us more about your current work and the next exhibition?

I will be showing my new work at the Thackeray Gallery in October. My most recent paintings were completed during lock-down, so there could be some aspects of the difficulties that we were all facing reflected in these works.