Jaune is a stencil artist and urban interventionist from Brussels, Belgium. His work is based on the paradox between the visible and the invisible, with sanitation workers the main protagonists in his humorous installations and paintings – an idea that was born from his own experience working in the profession.
Despite performing an important public service in garish fluorescent clothing, Jaune observed that he and his colleagues existed in the background of our urban environment, becoming almost invisible to the average person. It was in 2011 that he decided to free these characters from their roles by symbolically placing them in ever more absurd and whimsical scenarios in and around the city streets.
Those who were supposed to keep the world tidy have become harbingers of chaos. At the same time, Jaune encourages us re-evalaute our relationship with the individuals represented in his work.
Jaune received the freedom of Stavanger to produce a series of installations and paintings. Here is our interview, check it out!
Video by Fifth Wall TV:
Instagrafite: Hey Jaune! lovely to finally meet you. Tell us about your artist name (which is French for yellow)
Jaune: It actually came from an inside joke. My real name is Jonathan and my mate from Marseille, a port city located in Southern France, always used to pronounce my name ‘Jaune’ with his strong accent. It always cracked me up and it kinda stuck!
Instagrafite: Let’s talk about the protagonists in your work. What is your artistic journey?
Jaune: During my University studies in Brussels and I was also a sanitation worker. This gave me a new perspective on things and the city suddenly revealed itself from a different angle, showing me what people ate, drank, threw away in a megalopolis as Brussels. It soon struck me how invisible this profession was to the public. To give you an idea I would cross path with about 150 different people in a day and only two of them would notice me and greet me.
I didn’t mind they were not saying hi to me, what became obvious is that I realised I became an integral part of the landscape. People simply did not see me.
It was then that I also discovered the graffiti and street art scenes, I was also roommate with graffiti writers. This had a significant impact on my artistic journey.
The stencil technique was very similar to the way I drew and I quickly started making portraits of these sanitation workers. This allowed me to have a different approach by incorporating graffiti and my background into my art.
I have been painting on the streets for the past 5 years and this project has matured for the last eight years.
Instagrafite: Why opting for the stencil technique?
Jaune: I often use four to six layers for my stencils including many colours. Each piece takes about 30 minutes to complete. I was immediately drawn to the stencil technique. I love the moment when the stencil reveals the effect of my work onto the wall.
Instagrafite: You went on a stencil mission on the streets of Stavanger during Nuart Festival but you also produced an amazing indoor installation in collabortion with artist Jeff Gillette. Could you talk us through both experiences?
Jaune: I am very excited by both approaches. I must say I am also amazed by all the works that have been completed by international artists from the previous Nuart’s editions.
Instagrafite: Precisely, what do you want to leave to the audience when they stumble upon your street works?
The world we evolve in gives me the blues and I understand it less and less. Through my work and these protagonists I can expel this negative vibe.
I think these little characters represent what is worse in mankind. Unlike animals, humanity destroys what it produces and is not integrated in a natural cycle. I think in life everything is recycled, and mankind just doesn’t succeed in achieving this. We tend to produce many goods and products that nobody wants or needs and if we were to make an analogy with nature these men would be scavengers. Without them, humanity would crumble under its own waste.
No one ever dreams of becoming a sanitation worker, as a kid it’s not a profession that you would go for. If these guys were to suddenly stop working this would put everyone into trouble. In my work these characters are small by their size yet they have a tremendous power.
My work also portrays them at the very moment when they stop working…
Instagrafite: We are on site at your installation at Tou Scene as we speak. I can see there are men portrayed but also a few women.
Jaune: Absolutely, you’re right. Most of my protagonists are men. A few years ago while I was working for this sanitation company in Brussels women were not allowed to do this job. Simply because my former employer would have had to change the amenities with separate locker rooms and they didn’t have the budget for that. Things have changed since, which is why I have started integrating women in my work and in this particular installation at Tou Scene.
Instagrafite: Tell me a bit more about their postures
Jaune: As I started explaining earlier I only portray them when they stop working. Some are smoking, others are drinking or even fighting. I also integrated a couple of policemen having a break, they are not on duty.
With my work I want to give the audience new perspectives. I don’t have the ambition to reveal the truth I am only aiming at telling people’s stories.
I also feel that my work will be evolving as I pursue this journey in this ever changing world. I always wonder if what my characters are doing in my artistic interventions would shock anyone if this was happening in real life.
Instagrafite: What about your first encounter with Nuart Festival, how this came about?
Jaune: I was one of the participating artists for the crystal ship festival in Belgium in partnership with Nuart. I had the opportunity to meet with Martyn Reed, the founder of Nuart Festival, who had noticed my work.
I am very grateful to be here among this great artist’s line up.
Instagrafite: Talk me through your indoor installation here at Tou Scene. How did you prepare for it?
Instagrafite: What about this ‘Lost and Found’ area?
Jaune: This was totally improvised. It soon came to my mind that there is always a lost and found in theme parks.
The Crystal Ship curators saw what I wanted to achieve and they have been a great help in collecting different left objects on the streets of Stavanger.
Instagrafite: What’s next for you after Nuart Festival?
Jaune: I have a solo exhibition coming up in Amsterdam this October.
I will also be collaborating with the city of Brussels to realise a billboard campaign about public sanitation. This is an exciting project but also a great challenge!
I have multiple projects that will involve extensive travels where I will continue exploring the theme I have just presented here at Nuart Festival.
I am looking forward to seeing how my work will evolve and I feel blessed of all these opportunities.
- Interview: Julie
- Video by Fifth Wall TV :Website | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube .
- Photos: Jaune: Facebook | Henrik Haven: Website | Instagram & Julie: Instagram
Special thanks to Martyn Reed, James Finucane, Marisa Molin, Tor Ståle Moen, Anne Schmidt and the Nuart Team for their hospitality!