Joy Miessi transforms personal experiences into visual memorabilia through mixed media work. Both an illustrator and painter, Joy’s work reveals a varying range of themes, from past moments and conversations to intimate thoughts. In this extract from Varoom 39, Aisha Ayoade talks to Joy about the concept of nostalgia and how the past is made present in their work.

Accepting, Joy Miessi, 2018

Varoom: You had your first solo exhibiton “Do you know your middle?” in 2018. What’s the story behind the name?

Joy: The title came from my mum. From when I was young until now, she begins the process of parting my hair by asking me ‘Do you know your middle?’. At first, I took this literally and understood it to mean ‘am I aware of where the middle of my hair is, in case she misaligns my central parting’. It didn’t always require an answer, as she’d always start separating the hairs straight away. As I’ve grown older, and with the time I’ve had to reflect over the years whilst getting my hair braided, I’ve understood the question to mean so much more than literal. To me, it’s come to mean knowing who I am with certainty and pride even if I’m far away from home – my middle.

How did you capture memory through the work you made for the series?

Behind almost every painting in this series is a photograph. I started the process of making work by spending time at home and going through the albums that we have. Many of them sparked memories and stories and some of them were unfamiliar. I chose a few and chatted with my mum about the people in the photos, her perspective, and it sent us down a road of memories. The painting process was simply reflecting back on the memory – using words, colours and shapes that I could recall and bringing them forward into line drawings and text.

What Are You Asking For, Joy Miessi, 2018

Bringing nostalgic feelings into the work I create is part of my character. Naturally, I find myself reminiscing or trying to remember past events and conversations in order to strengthen the memory. I forget stories and key elements all the time, so to be able to turn these memories – many of which don’t have photographs documenting them – into artworks, adds permanence to the stories that I value.

I notice some of your work is reminiscent of the work of Jean-Micheal Basquiat. To what degree would you say his work inspires yours?

I like that Basquiat’s work is free-flowing in composition and unapologetic in its message. My favourite works by Basquiat are the collaborations with artist, Andy Warhol. Though I admire both of their works greatly, most of my inspiration comes from British/Congolese culture, from storytelling to the signage in both environments. My work is in response to my day-to-day, conversations, relationships, family etc – all these things make their way into my art. There’s a certain order that my work has to be read to be understood, and the repeat symbology holds a story that’s unique to my life experiences.

Glory, Joy Miessi, 2018

Read the full article in Varooom 39
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