Artists Revisited

Artists Revisited: Jinny Yu

Art is a tool with which Jinny Yu seeks to find herself. By striking a balance between the business and creative sides of the art world, Ottawa-based Yu has made a name for herself internationally. She has had work shown in galleries from Kyoto to Charlottetown, London to New York. Yu’s work varies, ranging from acrylic paint on aluminum to statues made from metallic tape, fabric, and steel rods.

Yu considers all professional artists to be small business owners. She is happy to share her top business tips with her fellow Artpreneurs.

Peinture de la vue sur l’autoroute Décarie (2015), Décarie highway, windows, chairs, pedestal
Peinture de la vue sur l’autoroute Décarie (2015)

First, make sure you have a good product on which to base your livelihood. Although she hates equating artwork to a product, Yu recognizes the business benefits of taking a step away from the passionate, personal side of artwork when it comes to promotion. In addition to providing something that people will want, you should make sure that you really believe in what you’re promoting.  Potential collectors are more likely to want to buy something if they can tell you are passionate about it.

Yu also recommends that artists be aware of competition. Even if your art is the best on the market, when fifteen other similar pieces exist, you might end up losing an opportunity. Also, always keep an updated list of all your contracts, your shows, and your work. Staying on top of the business side of your practice will help with everything from taxes to time management. Finally –and most difficult for Yu—hustle! Even as she admits that it’s difficult to do, Yu feels strongly that for an artist to succeed they need to work hard and promote their works even harder.

“I had to learn the hard way,” said Yu, speaking on the challenges of promoting her own work. “It’s still not easy or pleasant. Working with a commercial gallery is really helpful in this regard”.


Non-Painting Painting, oil on aluminum, 40"x6", 2012
Non-Painting Painting,  2012

Project reflections

Even if Yu has come across some challenges on the business side of her profession, these obstacles have not detracted from her love of the art itself. By silently challenging her audience to examine the artwork’s surroundings, Yu urges her viewers to consider the relationship between art and the world in which we live.

Before her show Don’t They Ever Stop Migrating?, Yu tried to better understand herself through the materiality of the medium she used.

Don't They Ever Stop Migrating? Venice Biennale ink on fabric, sound, 205" x 153" x 213", 2016
Don’t They Ever Stop Migrating? Venice Biennale, 2016

“I was the materiality of paint, and the world was the surface,” she explains, before laughing and apologizing for being too abstract.

This new show changed Yu’s frame of reference; exhibited at the Venice Biennale at the height of the migration crisis, the goal of Don’t They Ever Stop Migrating? was to help the audience realize how often borders play a role in their everyday lives. Yu emphasizes the idea that migration isn’t simply immigration: rather, she sees it as the movement of individuals from one group to another, whether that be on a large, international scale, or at the micro level between social groups. Through her work, she hopes to convey the idea that borders are not only the invisible lines between countries, but also walls that we build around ourselves socially and emotionally. This reinterpretation of migration allows the main themes of the work to hit closer to home among her viewers; everyone has felt excluded or out of place at one point or another. The empathetic connection that Yu forms with her audience over these shared memories leads to her continued motivation to create art.

By combining business and artistic creativity, Yu has found a place for herself in the painting community. To find out more about Jinny Yu, check out her website, which contains information about present shows, and an archive of past work.


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