Indulge In The Unique Quirks Of Joanne Loo’s Art | Artist Spotlight

Meet Joanne Loo, a mixed media artist from Malaysia


Joanne Loo describes herself as a left-handed creative and she means that literally. “I’m a proud lefty and I find happiness when creating drawings, prints and patterns!” Her creations are often bright and bold, and incorporates a touch of Malaysia in the most unique way.


How did you get started in art?

I initially started with writing stories when I was a small child. I was hugely inspired by my parents; they told me family anecdotes, humorous bedtime tales and moral parables––as well as Enid Blyton books. I then started illustrating pictures to accompany my stories. I kept on writing and drawing throughout the years; now I do it every day for a living!


What goes into creating your artwork?

A lot of blood, sweat and tears. Hahaha. Maybe just the last two, because it’s always hot in Malaysia and sometimes I get so frustrated when I can’t get my ideas out! I think my creative process involves squishing different meaningful things together to see what happens. I let my heart (and gut) take me on a journey that is equal parts fun and bumpy. I’ve only recently began to try and rein all that in to create more effective art. That has led to quite a lot of surprising self-discovery, and I’m loving the experimentation!


Describe your artistic aesthetic.

Familiar motifs in unexpected settings. Bold colours and pastel shades put together to create surprising palettes. I mostly use traditional media; seeing imperfections and marks of the artist is something important in the work I make.

Joanne’s prints often include bright, pastel colours


What inspires you and your work?

Thoughts and memories, mostly. I think back often to experiences I’ve had––both good and bad, and that often leaks out into my work. Books and learning new things are also sources of inspiration. I find that new knowledge stimulates my creative process and refreshes my thoughts tremendously.


What was the inspiration behind ‘Tiga Rasa Sayang’?

Tiga Rasa Sayang is a quirky nod to our local passion for eating and spending fun times together over food! Malaysians are always talking about what to eat next and where are the best places to go for good food. The topic of food is just something I enjoy discussing in general. The three-vase series of Tiga Rasa Sayang celebrates that: mamak sessions, durian, breakfast at a kopitiam and ABC desserts were all major visual inspirations. I also wanted to create an unconventional identity for local pottery, which is why I challenged myself to build and paint on vases. I had no access to a pottery wheel and clay, so I made them out of papier-mâché clay and regular paperclay. Several elements on the vases are also inspired by Peranakan Straits Porcelain, which I grew up with as my family are avid antique Collectors. It was really fun watching people’s faces light up in recognition when they viewed the vases. It just convinces me more that Malaysians bond best through food, haha.


Do all your work relate to each other?

Not necessarily. I think my work reflects parts of my thought process at varying stages of life. I don’t try to make one relate to the other, and instead approach each work as a unique piece of its own.


What are your views on the art community?

The art community is thriving with possibilities. There are just so many creatives out there doing their thing, sharing their work and supporting each other, which is a wonderful thing to see. Businesses, brands and the general public are also seeing art as a way to connect with each other while adding value to themselves. We’ve come far in a short span of time, and I hope it will continue to get better from here.

Her ‘Tiga Rasa Sayang’ project include all the elements that bind Malaysians together– food, fun and fellowship


What do you think is the most is the most difficult thing artists go through?

I may speak for a lot of artists: it is the constant inner art critic in our heads! Artists are all their own harshest critic, and while that may be helpful occasionally, I find that it kills the creative process more often than not. It can be a challenge to push the nagging thoughts away and focus only on creating. I try to overcome this by acknowledging the thoughts but not reacting to them. Holding strong to the thought that I’m where I need to be in the present moment helps, too.


Art is important because…?

It keeps memories alive, while creating new ones. It can be a catalyst for anything from hard-to-answer questions to something as simple as bringing happiness to one another. It’s natural to want to find beauty in everything, and art helps with that in all aspects.


What are your views of women in art?

Being a female artist myself, I’ve never had any repercussions as a creator––I personally feel that Malaysia is (thankfully) a tolerant and encouraging environment for artists regardless of gender. Because of this, I don’t see gender as a hurdle to art-making, neither do I see it as something that should define the artist or their work. Art is universal and should be accessible to anyone and everyone. You don’t have to fit a certain mould in order to create art.


Is there something/an idea that you’ve always wanted to make but haven’t yet?

I would like to pick up pottery and ceramics––having tried my hand with papier-mâché clay for Tiga Rasa Sayang made me realise that I love the 3D aspect of vases and usable ceramics. I also plan to have more collaborations for illustrating books and other projects, hopefully food related!