Vancouver Based Painter Rok Yu

Words Q&A Rok Yu | Photography Vilma @vilma.eks

Do you remember when you fell in love with painting? - if so describe that moment or feeling.

I was definitely that kid who was always drawing and painting from an early age, but my first real memory of being interested in the process of painting was in my high school art class. My art teacher, Mrs. Moorcroft assigned us to copy the work of the old masters and study their original techniques. It was my first time using oil paint and I vividly remember working carefully on the painting after studying the 19th century European painters. It was such an uplifting experience. That particular assignment and being a part of her class really cemented my love for painting portraits.

How do you keep yourself motivated to paint?

For me, the trick is just getting started. Oftentimes, I find that the first step of just getting into the studio with a new mindset is the hardest part of the whole process. Once I start a painting and I get into the zone, it's hard to break away until I see the project through. Also I listen to music a lot. Music and art exist hand in hand in my world. I enjoy working on multiple pieces simultaneously while listening to instrumental music in the background. What do you think it takes to be a great painter? Or should that even be a goal?

I don't know if I can isolate what makes a great painter, but I think that first you must try to find and develop your own voice as an artist. In order to reveal that, you need to paint whenever you can, as much as you can. It has to be a natural part of your life. If you have to force it, then maybe it's not your path to take.

2020 has certainly been a year for us to remember. How or has that affected the work you do- if so how?

We are living in an extraordinary time right now and 2020, in many ways, has been one of the worst years for so many people. Shows have been cancelled and galleries are closing down. I was scheduled to be part of a show in Seoul this spring, but it was cancelled and in March, I had to postpone my trip to NYC at the last minute. Everything shifted for me, and in the midst of the chaos, I decided to reposition and press reset mode by moving into a new studio. Over the last couple months, I've spent a lot of time reading, researching and pushing myself in the studio, allowing some time to experiment with larger works. Now I finally feel like I am on a positive path with my new "normal" routine.

From your travels or studies how would you compare the American vs. the Canadian art market?

I think they hugely differ. The Canadian art market has grown a lot over the last decade, but still comparatively small to the US. Here in Vancouver, I feel the art scene is more limited and there isn't a lot of access to contemporary art. The reality is that many Canadian artists end up aiming to exhibit in the major cities in the States where there is more exposure and sales.