Joanne Last lives and works in Surrey (UK), where she was born in 1962. She creates paintings that are both calm and energetic, multilayered, and rich with a sense of history. A dialogue of differences that speak on many levels.
How did you get into art?
I come from a family of artists and was always surrounded by creativity, but I originally trained as a classical pianist. Art took a back seat for many years until I took a part-time, two-year course in the early 90’s. My focus is now on painting, but both disciplines are integral parts of my life, and I can’t imagine doing one without the other.
How would you describe your style? What makes your art special?
I have always resisted the known or the familiar in my approach to making art. My best work always comes from a place of risk and experimentation – a desire to do different. If I had to describe my style, I would say it is always grounded by a rich surface texture, harmonious colour and a sense of bravery in paint application. My recent work is almost entirely abstract, but when I do reference the landscape, it is always in an oblique rather than direct way. The constant reinvention and boldness, the willingness to risk and always strive for difference, makes it exciting.
How do you go about developing your work?
I always start from a blank canvas in my head, as well as physically on the easel. I may have a desire for a certain direction or starting point – a colour palette, an intention to explore more linework or blocks of colour for example – but I never plan ahead as to what the finished piece might look like. I have to step off the creative edge in order to fall into something that engages me. Otherwise, I can get tight or bored. It can mean many changes and overpainting and frequent frustration – but the end result always benefits from taking the journey the long way round.
Who or what influences you?
There are great artists like Diebenkorn and Lanyon that have been constant companions on my art journey. Instagram has also provided a whole new world of contemporary inspiration, but I find my own intuition and questioning is my greatest teacher. Although my work is often related to the outdoors in terms of suggested landscape, I work from a rich inner world which is very much process and material led. I find the greatest influence comes from a myriad of disparate things that catch my attention – weathered surfaces, rusty objects, a piece of discarded wood - as well as the actual art materials and tools that can spark a whole new direction.
What are you planning to do next?
Since 2020 I have worked in a garden studio at home – but I have just taken on another studio locally. I am keeping this space as sparse and empty as possible, and it is beckoning me to go bigger. I love working on the floor with a lot of paint and using a variety of tools. I want to pare back, find the essential essence of what I want to do. I have so many fleeting ideas and possibilities that I would like to refine, but I will also have the space to just try anything that resonates or presents itself in the creative moment.