Graduate Showcase Special: Yeon Su Ju | 주 연수

16 page preview of the upcoming Graduate Showcase, featuring writing from GSA students + The Skinny’s Katie Goh – pick up a copy from cultural venues around Scotland or read online via The Skinny’s website. 

Let’s start with your beautiful painting on the cover of The Skinny. This work in particular feels very narrative focussed – is there a story behind the work that you can share with us?

 It started with one of my favourite lines in Sangsoo Hong’s film, On The Beach at Night Alone

“None of you are qualified. Everyone’s cowardly satisfied with fake things” – in the context of the movie, it means none of us is qualified to be loved. 

This very confined and sad view instantly enchanted me; it made me want to understand how not to be a coward, not to avoid and not to pretend that I am facing decisions beyond me. 

To find answers to these, as the first step for it, I made up my mind to go for a drive to find something I missed – (I mean in the painting) – I might wander and don’t know where I am heading, but I believed that after I finished this, I would become more honest and could understand better what was said in the movie.

Drive – where could we find the honesty?, 61x76cm, 2021, acrylic and oil on canvas
I’ll save my friend ‘cause you’re like a monk seal, 50x60cm, 2021, acrylic and oil on canvas

Your paintings are all so captivating and lyrical, and have an incredible ability to draw the viewer into a different world. Can you tell us a little bit about your process for creating them? 

It is embarrassing to describe myself as a romantic, but in truth I think I am, and sometimes my hopes, wishes, and love go too far – they never get tired but keep growing bigger. So I kind of have to imagine how I can make this work within the paintings because I just cannot let them go. 

In practice, I set a hypothesis or situation that fulfils these hopes, wishes and love. Then I do drawings – usually with graphite on paper and change details to get things more convincing. If things make sense enough, I move to painting. I pick some of the main mood colours, paint them as a background and get rough compositions with acrylic. Build up details and narratives with oil until it gets done. 

Rain reading – is she coming?, 61x76cm, 2021, acrylic and oil on canvas

I’d love to know a little bit more about your relationship to colour in your work – whilst vibrant, your palette often feels very soothing, especially with the predominance of pastel tones. Where does this come from? 

I think it has to do with my perception of sadness. My work mainly deals with feelings, especially love and sadness. Since I see sadness as something fond, flowing and nostalgic, I find that the pastel palette gives feelings of soft, melancholy and delicate, also represents these subtle feelings effectively in a way that I want. 

She brings the rain, 120x150cm, 2021, acrylic and oil on canvas

Lastly, what strikes me most about your work is your commitment to the medium of paint, despite the restrictions of the last year. As the graduate showcase launches online, what does it mean for you to translate such a physical medium into a digital one? What has it been like for you to try and continue painting without a studio? 

Ahh.. it was indeed a tough year. Also, it is disappointing to show my works online because I believe painting has the power to embrace and overwhelm the space. Of course, there is bright side – it possibly contributed to raising people’s interests and access to fine art. Personally, I still prefer old school way – meeting up at the exhibition in real life! 

In regards to working in lockdown – ironically, the ‘no access to studio situation’ helped my practice in some way. I set my studio at home, and no ‘work and home boundary’ was pretty charming (just for once though – no more!). I am a night owl person, and working at home let me freely indulge in whatever I want. I sang and danced while painting. I could deeply look inside and focus on myself. That was the most significant achievement! 

Who would you save if your best mate and me are drowning?, 60x60cm, 2021, acrylic and oil on canvas


Yeon Su Ju (b.1995) is a Korean artist based in Glasgow, UK. She graduated from Chung- Ang University in Seoul, Korea in Sociology, and studied Painting and Printmaking at The Glasgow School of Art where she is about to graduate with First Class Honours.

She has been shortlisted for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2021, London; a finalist for the D31 Art Prize 2021, Doncaster and longlisted for Articovery Emerging Artist Awards, Seoul. She has also engaged in 180 remote residency, New York, USA (Virtual). She has participated several group shows; ‘Rabbit Skin’, Glue Factory, Glasgow, 2020 / ‘Locked-down but not broken’, D31 Gallery, Doncaster, UK, 2021 (virtual) / ‘Concept 21’ Festival, GSASA, Glasgow, UK, 2021 (virtual) / ‘TSDAP & Vane Spring Exhibition 2021’, Vane Gallery, Newcastle, UK, 2021 (virtual). Currently, she is preparing for ‘The Alternative Degree Show’ in July across various venues in Glasgow, UK. 

See More of Yeonsu’s Work:

Instagram: @yeonsuju 


The Skinny Magazine:

GSA Graduate Showcase:

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