I WAS BORN IN TOULOUSE IN FRANCE IN 1985, AND I NOW LIVE IN HOSSEGOR, ON THE ATLANTIC COAST IN THE SOUTH FRANCE. MY LIFE IS DEDICATED TO PAINTING, SURFING, VINTAGE MOTORCYCLES, MEDITATION, NATURE AND COLLECTING ART AND OLDIES. PHOTOGRAPHY BY YENTL TOUBOUL AND FLORIAN SANTUS STARRING @JULIENJACA WWW.JULIENJACA.COM
I started to paint full time 4 years ago, at the end of 2018, when I lost my daughter Miki at birth. I mention it because losing her was absolutely devastating, and also what I had built, I actually had a nervous breakdown. But that was what put me on my true path and gave me the strength to finally quit everything and start to create and paint, as I have wanted to for so many years. Before that I was a tattoo artist for 7 years. I worked all around the world, on every continent and in many countries.
I like to work on a series so I can explore an idea in many ways, but each series can be really different. Each series could be a show in itself. For example, I just had a show in Berlin at the NBB Gallery in October (2022) with a series of large biker jacket paintings, but in January, I have a solo show in Hong Kong with OTI showing a series of pot paintings. Even if the imagery comes from the same mind, I would say my art is protean and multifaceted, but I guess you can sense that it comes from the same person, or from the same background.
If I had to name a style or movement, I would say it’s figurative contemporary painting, sometimes with an ignorant touch, using bright colours and lots of texture and materials, mixing lots of symbols from my background and pop culture like old tattoo designs, choppers from the 70s biker scene, skulls, Native American culture, and many other things from my way of life like vintage cars, surfing, music, cinema, art, meditation, etc.
More than anything, I love creating invented pictures that couldn’t be made any other way than by painting, and that allow people to tell themselves stories, keeping mysteries. For example, I’m not interested in repainting a scene identically, in any realistic way. For me, that is just about technical prowess or an exercise for its own sake. I think making paintings that could be created through the energy of a photograph is just not that interesting.
I like to invent pictures, from a narrative point of view, but also pictorially, while retaining recognisable life references and the flatness of a canvas. Generally speaking, I like imprecise lines and bright colours, I like it when you can see that it’s made with painting material, it creates a vibration that draws my eyes immediately. I like it when closer up it might be abstract and raw, but from further away, you see a figurative picture. From a technical point of view, for example, perspective and rendering on a 2D surface, the illusions of our 3D world don’t interest me. For me, the aim of painting is not to be a trompe-l’oeil. I like to use paint for what it is, the application of pigments on a flat surface, just like primitive, folk or outsider art (art brut). I stretch my canvases on a frame and I use lots of different materials and mediums, such as acrylic and house paint, but also oil, plaster, oil sticks and collage. I also like to use mediums from the sectors I am drawn to, such as airbrushing and chrome painting, which is used in car and motorcycle paintwork.
I don’t always carry a sketchbook with me like many artists, but I do have a notebook on my phone where I jot down hundreds and hundreds of notes with ideas, references, influences, etc. and also save any associated pictures.
I write something down every day, when I see a painting or artwork, watch a film, read on the internet, read books, artist interviews, spiritual books, listen to music, podcasts, go for walks, etc. To be honest, I feel like I have too many ideas for the time I have to make them, and I hope it continues like that for many years to come. When I want to start a painting, I always do a quick sketch of the idea, in order to get the composition and elements, but it’s a rough sketch, something I can throw away. I repeat this on the canvas in order to get the basics, the foundations, but after that, maybe 50% will be improvisation or a decision in the moment. It takes me days to finish a painting, so some elements may change during the process.
I’m always working on 4 or 5 pieces at a time, some small and some big, some paintings and some drawings. I never stay working on the same painting from start to finish. I have found a real balance in working this way, I’m never bored or jaded. Some days I don’t want to paint on a large scale, for example, because it’s really physical, and I prefer to paint a small piece or draw sitting at my desk, and this way of working affords me that flexibility.
There is also a technical aspect to this. Switching from one painting to another on the same day or in the same week is very practical for drying times. While a layer is drying on one, I can work on the other.
To be honest, I don’t know where all these ideas or the motivation comes from. I can have an idea for a new series or a new painting every day. It is as if an inexplicable force takes over me. It’s like I don’t make my paintings, but something else does because I let it. I think it comes from all the years of not letting it come through, and at the same time, watching, looking, searching, studying, dissecting and being very interested and passionate about so many different things.
I think, apart from my background and culture, what influences me the most is other artists and painters. I don’t know how you can work and make things if you don’t know what people are making in your scene. It’s the same in music or cinema. I spend so much time and money on art books, as if I were an art student. It’s almost like an addiction.
However, there are legendary and living artists who influence me a lot. For example, the Abstract Expressionism movement excites me a lot right now, I think it’s possible that I will follow this direction formally and bit by bit in my work. I feel artists like Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell or De Kooning have reached pure freedom in painting. But outsider artists such as Dubuffet, Sam Doyle or William Hawkins are fascinating too. And, of course, certain contemporary artists like Wes Lang, Josh Smith, Donald Baechler, Eddy Martinez or Bill Saylor guide me through what they bring to the art world and they open the gates for many young artists. Contemporary figurative paintings from the likes of Danny Fox or Florian Krewer speak a lot to me too. And I am also very interested in the contemporary abstract work of Sterling Ruby, Joe Bradley and Oscar Murillo.
I work in my own studio at home. It’s a small building in my garden that I renovated when I moved in. But it’s a bit too small for me now, so I am currently looking to get a much bigger space in an area in my city where there are other artists and craftspeople working. I will move to that space in 2023.
I feel as though I really need to see an entire series on the wall or at least many paintings at the same time in front of my eyes. And I want to create bigger paintings. I like huge spaces and really big canvases, the freedom it gives, and I feel that is in line with my ambition and motivation.
The new space will also be good for studio visits, I want to show people the space as a kind of exhibition, with works on the wall, but also with objects and things from my universe such as oldies, sculptures, antiques, choppers, etc. I want interested people to be able to dive into my world.
For me, art is what separates humans from animals, it’s the very essence of humanity, the universal language between all people. To create is an instinctive need: it allows the creator to live and breathe and the viewer to feel and experience emotions.
In these times when everything is hard, sad, ugly, worrying and cruel, I think art will become more and more important, always with intelligence and a bit of humour, for showing the beauty of the world, or at least what is left of it, and, for me, it’s also about making people feel good, that’s really important in our world. Or at least, that’s what I’m trying to do.