Julien Jaca


My name is Julien JACA, but my artist name is more JACA alone. I was born in Toulouse in France in 1985 and now I live in Hossegor, on the Atlantic ocean south coast in France, with my wife, a dog and a cat. My life is between painting, surf, old motorcycles, meditation, nature and collecting art and oldies.

Image courtesy of Julien Jaca

Tell us your story, how did you come to painting?

I started to paint full time 2 years ago, end 2018, when I lost my daughter at birth. I mention it cause, first, this tragedy devastated my life and what I’ve built, I had a nervous breakdown in same time. But then it was the point that put me on my real way and gave me the essence to finally quite everything and create and paint how I wanted to do since years. Before that I studied 4 years at the Fine Arts School in Toulouse in France, and then I was tattoo artist for 7 years. I worked all around the world, on every continents and in many countries. But for 2 years now I had to stop everything and I only paint and work for my art each day.

How would you define your current painting?

I would define my painting as expressionism figurative if I can say. I work mostly on very big scale canvas, with human figures (mostly female nudes which is for me the greatest subject in art and keep fascinate me everyday), but I can also work in other mediums with other subjects like skulls, native americans, old tattoo designs etc, all influenced by my tattoo culture, my old choppers and motorcycles culture, all the trips I did around the world, and many other things of my way of life like old cars, surf, music, the 1960’s/1970’s world, cinema, art, oldies etc.

I like to work by series, so as to experiment the idea in all directions, but each series can be really different. Each series could be a proper show for example. Even if my imagery comes from the same head, I would say my art is protean and can be multifaceted, but we can feel it comes from the same person I guess, the same background.

Image courtesy of Julien Jaca

Tell us about your style and technique. Any secret that can be told?

I love, above all things, creating invented pictures, that one could not make any other way than painting, and which allows people to tell themselves stories, keeping mysteries. For example, I don’t find any interest in repainting identically a scene, in any realistic way that might be. For me, it is just a technical prowess or an exercise for its own sake.

I like to invent pictures, in the narrative point of view, but also pictorially, while staying in recognizable life references and the flatness of a canvas. In general, I like imprecise lines and bright colors, I like when we see it’s made with painting matter, it creates a vibration that attracts my eye straight away. It’s why I would say my style could be ignorant figurative Expressionism. I like when a closer up can be abstract and raw, but you see a figurative picture from further. On 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, painting doesn’t aim to be a trompe l’oeil. I like to work painting for what it is, the application of pigments on a flat surface, just so as do the primitive, folk or brut arts. I stretch myself my canvases on frame and I use on it mostly acrylic painting and house painting, but I can also use oil painting, plaster, oil stick and airbrush. 

How do you usually start your paintings? With a sketch, a draft or is it just an improvisation?

I don’t really have a sketch book always with me like many artists, but I have a notebook always on me. I write hundred and hundred of notes of ideas, references, influences etc with attached pictures. Everyday I note something, when I watch painting or art, movies, internet, read books, artist interviews, spiritual books, listen music, podcasts, walk outside etc… To be honest I feel I get to much ideas compared to the time I have to make them.

When I want to start a painting, I always do a quick sketch of the idea, so as to get the composition and elements, but it’s a bad one, something I can throw. I repeat it on the canvas so as to get the bases, the foundations, but after that maybe 70 % will be improvisation or decided on the moment. It takes me some days to finish a painting, so some elements can change during the process.

I’m always on 4 or 5 pieces at a time, some small and some big, some paintings or some drawings. I never stay on the same painting from start to finish. I found a real balance working this way, I’m never bored or jaded. Some days I don’t want to paint in large scales for example cause it’s really physical, but more paint sitting at my desk on a small piece or a draw, this way of doing things allows me to do that.

I admit that there also is a technical aspect to this. Switching from one painting to the other on the same day or week is very practical for drying times. While a layer is drying on one, I work on the second one.

What are your motivation forces? And the artists who have been and are an influence for you?

As I told you before, to be honest I don’t know where all these ideas and motivation come from. Everyday I can have an idea of a new series or a new painting. I feel like an inexplicable force that takes over me. Like if I didn’t make my paintings, but something else does because I let it. I feel it comes from all the years of not letting it, and in same time watching, looking, searching, studying, dissecting and being very interesting and passionated in many many different things.

About the artists who influence me, I would say there is 2 before the others : the two French painters (like me) Henry Matisse and Paul Gauguin. I like their figures, compositions and raw colors and specially their way to demonstrate the Cloisonnism and Synthetism. This styles or movements caught my eyes very strongly. I read, watched and checked everything about them, even their writings. But I am also fascinated by the abstract painter Cy Twombly and the figurative one Jean-Michel Basquiat. For me they’ve reached the top of freedom in painting, in two different way. There are many others like Philip Guston, Jean Dubuffet, David Hockney, Alice Neel etc… but it will be too long to do the list.

There are also lots inspiring living artists I like the work, like Wes Lang, Danny Fox, Lyle Carbajal for example. And the powerful abstract works of Joe Bradley and Oscar Murillo. Then I am also very influenced, mostly in the beginning of my practice, by all the primitive arts and the afro American outsider art from the post-slavery period like William L. Hawkins, Sam Doyle, Clementine Hunter and others. And finally of course I am a lot influenced by the old tattoo artists and ignorant styles like Rosie Camanga, Bert Grimm and others again.

Image courtesy of Julien Jaca

What can you tell us about your studio, what kind of place is it?

I work in my own studio. I had a studio that I rented before, in my city, in an artisanal zone with other studios of artists, graphic designers, old cars shops etc… But during the first lockdown I renovate an old building in my garden so as to make an art studio. So now I have my studio at home, with a big high room to paint and a smaller one for desk, computer, books etc…

But my goal is to rent or buy a really bigger one as soon as possible, because I need to see an entire series on the wall or at least some paintings in same time. And also to make even bigger paintings. I like huge space and really big canvases, the freedom it gives, and I feel it’s in parallel with my ambition and motivation.

What is art for you?

For me art is the thing who separate humans of animals, the very essence of Humanity, the universal language between all peoples. To create is an instinctive necessity : for the creator so as to try to live, and for the spectator so as to try to feel and live emotions.

In these current times where everything is hard, sad, ugly, anxious and cruel, I think art will be more and more there, always with mind and bit of humor, to show the beauty of the world, or at least what is left of it, and for me it’s also about making people feel good, it’s really important in our world. This is at least what I am trying to do.

Piece with Artist. February 2021. © www.piecewithartist.com

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