Johanna Younes was born in 1984 in Liberia, Africa to a Filipino mother and a Lebanese father. In 2006, she graduated from Notre Dame University in Lebanon with a degree in Communications and Engineering. In 2014, she decided to move to Dubai and continue her career as a telecommunications engineer for the last 16 years.
Though she did not attend art classes at a young age due to her focus on school, her passion and love for art were always there. Seeing her sister taking designing courses made her ponder that maybe someday she might pursue and study it as well.
A sudden turn of events changed her life when she was diagnosed with cancer back in 2018. It was a devastating and shocking moment at that time, which even led her to suffer from depression. At that point, she knew that it was not going to be easy, an uphill battle that required a lot of hard work, but her fighting spirit never gave up and looked for ways to get through it, making a choice to deal with it through art.
She began looking for art courses in Dubai that would suit her needs and came across the Lotus Educational Institute. The Institute’s program was just exactly what she needed because it came with a flexible schedule, not impeding with her current work.
Her art classes were put on hold for some time when she started to undergo treatment and returned to the institute a year later, in 2019. She then subsequently began taking the complete program of painting classes for adults, specifically in Creative Painting, and steadily developed her talent and style.
One of her favorite aspects of her class was the teachers’ encouragement and support during the sessions. Having understood that she basically started from scratch, with no art expertise, was something that she never expected.
Aside from the technical skills she gained, Painting and drawing also played a vital role in helping her cope with her despair and served as a method to release all of her present emotions and thoughts, as every time she attends these art classes, she gets into a state of trance, getting more relaxed and calmer.
“I find art as an expressive medium because of it I am able to express all my feelings and inner thoughts and reflect them in my paintings. Observing what is happening in the world around me made me want to express my ideas and my own interpretations of life as I see it, into a canvas.”
She was able to enhance and develop her own style in creative painting over the years of training at Lotus, and got the shot to have her exhibit debut at World Art Dubai in 2021, followed by her second in 2022, hosted at the World Trade Centre, Dubai. The other students in her class came in support and joined her as well during the exhibit.
“Stained-glass design” had a big influence on her aesthetic. Going to church on Sundays was one of the continuous activities she experienced growing up in a Catholic family. She always gets captivated by the refraction of light from the churches’ windows, thus inspiring the designs of her paintings. The majority of her artworks communicate messages regarding old and present societal conventions with some religious overtones. The ideas all came from her research and the books she read since the start of her academic years.
Aside from the design itself, her art was also influenced by some of the major artists.
What are some of your major artistic influences?
“I am influenced by several artists such as Marc Chagall who had his own visual language and had lots of motifs in his painting. I am also inclined to illustration artists who use art to tell a story or to create works that evoke a strong emotional response from people such as Norman Rockwell and James Gilray.”
Almost every artist encounters the challenges of being an artist, especially in today’s society, and she had her own thoughts and opinions on the subject:
What are some of the challenges you face as an artist?
“As an artist, I think the main challenge is the most common perception of art nowadays, in which a lot of people see a painting as a decorative piece of furniture hung on the wall, without appreciating the process and creative process behind it, and not having adequate support for artists where art is still considered as a hobby in society nowadays.”
What are your thoughts on the role of art in society?
“I view Art as a collective memory in society. I feel that Art expresses how it actually feels to exist in a particular time based on what is happening in the world around that time. It expresses feelings, thoughts and emotions of people and a whole new vision of the world surrounding them. I consider it as a new and modern means of writing history as perceived by the people living at that time.”
Johanna has opted to learn and take more design courses and continue her art education to grow both technically and personally, seeing art as a passion as well as a therapeutic means. She demonstrated to everyone that art has the capacity to influence our lives in a profound and meaningful way, whether it is created or merely viewed.
“Hopefully in the future I would be able to inspire people to start expressing through art and painting, as it has impacted my life in a positive way that I would love any person to actually try exploring it.”