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Interview Kayoon Anderson



Kayoon was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1997. She studied architecture at the University of Cambridge and painting at Siena Art Institute before returning to England to specialise in portraiture at Heatherley School of Art. She currently works as a figurative oil painter in London. She looks to Italian and Korean art as influences in her painting practice. 

Kayoon has exhibited in Cambridge, London, Siena and Florence and has painted notable sitters such as actor Ncuti Gatwa, author Bernardine Evaristo and BBC reporter Clive Myrie.



How is your experience as an artist?


Painting is all-encompassing. It's a constant challenge but so uplifting too. It's great, and I'm so grateful - not everyone gets the chance to do what they love. It's been particularly nice to be at school, within a community of painters. We paint each other, help each other and critique each other's work. 


How do you describe your work to somebody who has never seen it?


Figures, often in a space that is somewhere between realistic and abstract. A mix of naturalistic representation, pattern and flat areas of colour. A celebration of flesh and the colours of skin. An earthly palette, and hopefully a feeling of solidity and harmony.

Tell us a bit about your artist journey so far


I imagine the three years spent studying architecture has had some influence on my painting practice. I like structure, balance and geometry in my paintings. I spent several months exploring painting in Siena, but it was last year when I started a diploma in portraiture, that my figurative painting journey really started. Understanding the craft of oil paint and learning to work from life has been an invaluable experience.

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What artists inspire you?


Contemporary artists include: Zoey Frank, Saied Dai, Norman Blamey, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Jennifer Packer. Some not-so-contemporary artists include: 

Giorgio Morandi, Gwen John, Edouard Vuillard.


However, perhaps my greatest inspiration has come from late-medieval/early renaissance painters such as Fra Angelico, and Masaccio.


The works that have had the greatest effect on me when seen in real life are 'The Battle of San Romano' paintings by Paolo Uccello. Knock-your-socks-off good!


Where do you set inspiration from and how do you start painting?


In terms of subject matter, my family and friends provide constant inspiration. I love to paint those I love. But then again, all people are wonderful and fun to paint. I'll pass a stranger in the streets and think how I would mix that streak of blue along her face, or the purple in his hair. All faces and bodies are amazingly beautiful.


Whether I'm working from life or photos, I'll start with some compositional sketches - the crop tool on a phone is helpful for this too. I find composition really important and worth spending time on. Once the initial drawing is on canvas, I find you've just got to get stuck in. Working quickly, using a big brush, covering the whole surface whilst belting your favourite song is a great start.


What do you believe is integral to the role of an artist?


A love of the painting process and a fascination for those you paint. An openness and sensitivity to the sitter is important too. If we're talking about the role of an artist generally, a child-like curiosity of the world around you, as well as the willingness to change and explore different processes/artistic avenues are good to have!

What are you currently working on?


Whilst completing my portrait painting studies at Heatherleys, I'm thinking about my desire to create works on the theme of motherhood. Pregnancy, birth, babies, and the joys and struggles surrounding motherhood is an endlessly fascinating subject matter. Although it's a relatively fresh idea, I'm excited to see where this exploration takes me.

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