Jwan Yosef is a Syrian-born Swedish artist and painter, presently based in London. He is well-known for his plastic art. His art involves a new approach and a new way of composing which is original and unique, totally different from the routine, common, well-established methods. Born in Syria and brought up in Sweden, he showed artistic inclinations from childhood. Yosef earned a degree in fine arts from ‘Konstfack University,’ Stockholm, and later pursued his Master’s in Fine Arts from London’s ‘Central Saint Martins.’ Starting at Konstfack, he participated in several group exhibitions at various places, including Vienna, Prague, London, Dallas and Los Angeles. He held two solo exhibitions - ‘Painting about Sex, Flesh, and Violence’ and ‘High Notes’- in 2013, and another, ‘Masked,’ in 2016. Yosef is a founding member and studio holder at ‘The Bomb Factory Art Foundation.’ With some of his art, he creates a twilight zone between paintings and sculptural objects. Yosef is openly gay and is married to Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin.
Childhood & Early Life
Yosef was born on September 6, 1984, in Ras al-Ayn, in northeastern Syria. He is of Kurdish – Armenian descent as his father, Ahmad Yosef, is Syrian Kurd and mother is an Armenian Christian. His parents were from different religious beliefs. When Yosef was 2 his family relocated from Syria to Sweden. In Syrian language, ‘Jwan’ means beautiful, young.
According to Yosef, he has painted since he was a child. From 2004 to 2006 he learnt painting at ‘Pernby School of Painting’ in Stockholm. In 2009, he completed his graduation from ‘Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and design,’ Stockholm. In 2011, he received his MA in Fine Arts from ‘Central Saint Martins,’ London.
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After graduating from ‘Central Saint Martins,’ Yosef started looking out for a studio. He worked hard and his work earned attention. He participated in a number of international shows which helped him get more projects.
He participated in several group exhibitions, especially in the Konstfack, Stockholm, during his initial years. Some of the group exhibitions that he took part in the later years included ‘Life Is Elsewhere,’ London (2011), ‘Some Catch,’ London (2012), ‘Journey to the Centre of My Mind,’ Madrid (2013), ‘Faceless,’ Brussels (2015), ‘Re:Define,’ Dallas (2015), ‘Tillstand,’ Karlstad (2016), ‘Lounge,’ Stockholm (2016, 2017) and ‘Over the Rainbow,’ Los Angeles (2017).
He claims that he found inspiration in the art-work of Neo Rauch, Gerhard Richter and Jaan Toomik, but for his own work he takes inspiration from everyday things, experiences and relationships. The chief medium that he uses for his art is oil on Perspex; he also works on canvas.
In 2013, he held his first solo exhibition, ‘Painting about Sex, Flesh, and Violence, lol,’ at the ‘Divus Gallery’ in London. During the same year his second solo exhibition, ‘High Notes,’ was held at ‘Galleri Anna Thulin,’ Stockholm. On November 10, 2016, his third solo exhibition titled ‘Masked’ was inaugurated at ‘Stene Projects’ Stockholm.
In 2015, Yosef was a part of a group exhibition, ‘There and Back Again,’ with fellow artists Nastasja Loutchko, Petr Davydtchenka and Josef Bull. A new contemporary artist studio, ‘The Bomb Factory Art Foundation,’ was established at Archway, North London, in early 2015, and Yosef is a founding member and studio holder at this art foundation.
Yosef has a series of four solo exhibitions scheduled for the 2018 fall. For these shows, he has focused on three separate figures – actor Rock Hudson, Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad and his own father, Ahmad Yosef. To weave the shows with a common thread, he has selected appropriate titles from movies featuring Rock Hudson.
Awards & Achievements
In 2013, his art earned him two awards – the ‘Columbia Threadneedle Prize’ and the ‘BEERS Contemporary Award’ for ‘Emerging Art.’
Yosef has a large following on the social media platform, Instagram. He has a great liking for food and reading books.
Yosef is openly gay. Since 2016, he has been in a relationship with the Puerto Rican singer, actor and author Ricky Martin. They confirmed their relationship with an appearance on the red carpet in 2016. The two also attended the ‘amFAR (The Foundation of AIDS Research) Inspirational Gala’ in São Paolo, Brazil. Yosef announced his engagement to the singer on the ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show.’ The two got married in 2017 and live together with Martin’s twins, Valentino and Matteo, born through surrogacy.