Mathieu Julien: “My challenge was to keep the same methodology on a canvas as on a wall, to preserve the energy, the urgency, the qualities, even the errors of my graffiti.”
Mathieu Julien is part of the collective exhibition Allez la France which has just opened at Saatchi Yates we managed to take a few minutes with him and the three other artists during the opening of the exhibition to ask questions about the exhibition and their artistic practice.
1 Go France – The French football team brought together French people of African, Arab and European descent to create harmonious unity to achieve the ultimate greatness of winning the World Cup – do you think France will ever be able to create a harmonious country for everyone to live and prosper?
As a child growing up in a mixed environment, I thought we would end up living in a more harmonious society. I wish it had and sometimes I wish I had remained a child!
2 You paint on a large scale It must be such a relief that people can see your work in person – how has COVID affected you and your art practice?
I moved from Paris to the United States in February 2020, a few days after the COVID hit and Phoebe Saatchi and Arthur Yates offered me the chance to exhibit. Major changes happened at the same time and definitely affected the way I paint, outdoors, on the walls, with my friends, in Paris.
3 OM or PSG?
I’m from Bordeaux, which means that I also hate / envy these two clubs.
4 How did you all meet? And how did you come up with the idea of painting on shared walls?
The four of us are part of the same group of graffiti artists called Modern Jazz. We did this collective with other close friends in France a few years ago because we felt good together and somehow linked in the way we paint and behave. Hams is in Marseille with other friends of the crew and Jin and I are in the States, but for years we painted walls with Kevin and Obisk next to a canal in the Paris suburbs.
Sharing walls is quite common in graffiti, people usually plan to coordinate the color, background, or theme, while we just paint next to each other. I don’t think I’ve ever painted by myself. Besides the fun of doing things with friends, it’s really rewarding as we share a lot of what we find stimulating in various areas together. It is also helpful to know their opinions and opinions about my work when I encounter a creative roadblock.
5 You enjoyed the freedom the walls gave you to pain in any size anytime no deadline no wait no pressure – how did you find the transformation into painting for a gallery especially a gallery in London ?
When I paint a wall, I don’t draw and I’m not obsessed with the result. Of course, I’m happier if I end up leaving a board that I love, but there is nothing wrong with it failing because I would always feel great because I had a great day under the sun with my friends, exercising on the wall bike carrying large buckets of paint. Maybe I tried something different and while it didn’t work, I eventually learned something that I could use again later. Either way, this table is going to be erased or covered soon anyway.
I think this detachment helps me make bold choices during the painting process, surprise myself and ultimately produce a painting that I would love. I struggled to maintain the same dynamic when painting on a canvas, because the journey is less satisfying, and the result is more central. My challenge was to keep the same methodology on a canvas as on a wall, to preserve the energy, the urgency, the qualities and even the errors of my graffiti.
6 What did you read, watch and listen to during the lockdown / Covid
They are listed in chronological order from February 2020.
– Quiet days in Clichy (Henry Miller)
–Les Thibault (roger martin du gard)
– The victory of the kingless (pacome thiellement)
–The terrible children (cocteau)
–The map and the territory (houellebecq)
–The learned women (Molière)
–Build a fire (jack london)
–Charcoal castle (yasha been)
–Seaworkers (Victor Hugo)
–The science fiction guestbook (ursula le guin)
– The left hand of the night (ursula le guin)
The only movies I remember watching are “Being There” by Hal Ashby, “The Swimmer” by Frank Perry and “Shoplifters” by Hirokasu Kore-eda.
I was fortunate enough to make a music playlist for a friends project called Tropics During Lockdown, it’s available below:
8 What’s next for you?
Hopefully a trip to Europe to visit friends and family and see the exhibit in London.
Go France! With works by Jin Angdoo, Mathieu Julien, Hams Klemens and Kevin Pinsembert April – May 26, 2021 saatchiyates.com follow @jathieumulien you can read Hams Q&A HERE
Mark Westall is the founder and editor-in-chief of FAD magazine Founder and co-editor of Art of Conversation and founder of the @worldoffad platform