Q&A With Artist Guy Yanai

INTERVIEWED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGES courtesy of Guy Yanai


Tel Aviv-based artist Guy Yanai chats to VISI about his colourful paintings, what he loves about being creative and his first monograph.

In what way does everyday life inspire your paintings?

Everyday life is very hard, usually boring. It’s actually what I try to avoid. Because it’s going to the bank, groceries, and waking up on time. The more you get older the more life and these systems try to take away your creativity. It’s insanely easy to be really busy doing nothing. So, for me, I try to always push doors open, to never have things close up. To find ways of living a poetic life but still filing monthly reports to my accountant.

You paint in solid blocks of colour, inspired in part by Matisse and Cezanne. When did you first start using this technique and what drew you to it initially?

Actually, I paint in lines, in these kind of stripes. Just my hand and a brush and my eye. No projections and no other tools really. The thing is, people always used to tell me that I paint in colour blocks, and I was sure it was a not a compliment. So this way I can do a block of colour and it’s still just individual stripes. It’s like both at once. A block of colour and a single line. I think it just happened slowly over time. It’s hard to pin down an exact moment.

Los Angeles, 2019, oil on canvas

How would you describe your style?

Well, I just want to keep growing and evolving. Not to really have a style. But of course when I look at the bodies of work I do, there is a sensibility, a style. I think something that is very fresh, yet aware of the past.

What do you love most about being creative?

I’ll tell you this: it’s very, very hard to be creative every day. Very. You get these tiny moments of sparkle here and there that are so exciting. I mean, listen, I’m living my dream. I wake up and walk to my studio and paint.

You’ve just released your first monograph. How did this come about and what have you most enjoyed about this process?

Print is very alive, even more alive than ever, I think. My girlfriend told me that she read that sending an email now is more harmful to the environment than producing a piece of paper because of all the server farms and the electricity they use. I have been thinking about a book like this for two years now. It was slower than usual. And was filled with a lot of anxiety. Honestly, I am still scared to open and flip through it; it’s too personal. In about a month, I’ll open it up and look at it.

If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?

Probably Jean-Luc Godard. To have his newer, denser films screened and to put an image on top of that, a frozen image. Or maybe with an architect like John Pawson. A site-specific space for a show that only Pawson can design. I just collaborated with Hermès on a beach textile collection – it will be out around Christmas.

Any exciting plans for 2020?

Yes, always! I have a solo show in Düsseldorf at Galerie Conrads and a solo show in Tokyo at Maho Kubota Gallery. I will be at the Casa Wabi Foundation in Mexico for six weeks – the building is designed by [Japanese architect] Tadao Ando, so I’m very excited to go and work there and to just be alive and working and to keep pushing!

To see more of Guy’s work, visit guy-yanai.com.