Julien Roux

I was in Israel a few months ago, and while climbing around the labyrinthine staircases of old Jaffa, I heard charming, unearthly music emanating from an open doorway. My other professional art-viewing friend and I had made a pact not … Read More

By / February 17, 2009

I was in Israel a few months ago, and while climbing around the labyrinthine staircases of old Jaffa, I heard charming, unearthly music emanating from an open doorway. My other professional art-viewing friend and I had made a pact not to go into any of the terrible art galleries in the area, in an extension of the "if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all" rule. But of course we were drawn inside, and were so pleased to find French artist Julien Roux, playing the melodica, surrounded by a gallery of his stunning drawings. They perfectly captured the insanity of urbanity of our New York lives, and the parallels to be found in Tel Aviv. These works become more and more interesting as you get caught up in their visual stories, beast-piano and all.

Name: Julien Roux
Birthday: July 3, 1978
Hometown: Sallanches, France
Marital status: Cohabitation with the mother of our child

Upcoming Projects or Shows:
-An illustrated book for children will be published this year in France, with Thierry Magnier edition. The title is: "Un Jour En Ville" (A Day in the City).
– To continue working on & developing a showroom of drawings and prints I have just opened. (15 Nativ Amazalot, Old Jaffa, Israel).
– To find an editor for two other books that are already done: one about the New Yorkers, another about erotic drawings.
– Solo exhibition in Hengevoss Dürkop gallery, Hamburg Germany, April 2009.
– Group exhibition in Jakarta, Indonesia with French Cultural Center.


Favorite fruit:
Last song you heard: Mulatu Astatqé  by Yèkèrmo Sèw (A Man of Experience and Wisdom)
Favorite Poet: Fernando Pessoa

What are some of the questions that motivate your drawings?

My drawings are motivated by several interests that can be divergent, regarding the series I am working on. One of the main interests is the nakedness of a drawing: how to reduce a form to its essence. The moment of apparition of the idea that is pushing the drawing. Not more. Reducing, to let the place for the mind of the watcher to construct his way of looking and thinking.

Another interest is the fragmentation of an entity by articulation of signs that deconstruct evidence. At least, about recent series called "Apocalypses", I talk about the craziness of the city and how standards of living could generate it. That includes globalization, traffic jams, media’s investment in terror, security, solitude… all in textures of fragments (as the information proceeds in the way to inform us: how is it possible to reduce all of a newspaper in one drawing?). This series proceed also like a dream: by surrealist parallels.

What types of objects draw your eye, and why?

Nowadays, I don’t draw so much what I am looking at, but more what I am thinking about. It can start from an object, and then I start to improvise from this object to push it out of its limit. In fact, most of objects I will draw regardless of their situation will became kind of absurd. Frequently, objects I draw are public signs, kinds of archetypes. Then I try to push these archetypes out of their agreed limits to open a reaction: it can be provocative, funny, weird or disturbing… anyway, the idea is to give a distance to the problem I treat. I don’t try to close the subject in my drawing, neither to give my point of view…  trying to keep it open by changing the distance we are used to.

Often, I draw motifs of global architecture like square buildings, parking lots or highways because they represent, for me, a standard of life that is close to living in a jail. I have an obsession about how we are conditioned like products of this massive and global industrial project.  I draw people and their solitude, prefabricate dreams, standard activities of consumption that seems to empty everybody of his soul and dreams.

You have traveled and lived around the world, how does this impact your work?

Each stay I did, was kind of another possibility of life: to change spoken language, way of thinking, relatives, activities, jobs… Each period as influenced my work in a specific way: In China I have discovered a manner of using ink and also types of papers that I didn’t know before. But also I was very sensitive to language’s figures that seem to be visual poetry. Some Taoist texts nourished my mind for a while. Then in Korea… I went there because of a scholarship to study graphic design in University of Seoul.  But I stayed longer, because of deep friendships. I found a job as a light assistant on a movie set. In this period I did a photographic work called "public sleepers": photographic series of several hundreds people who sleep in Seoul subway between their station. But I had to come back to Paris in order to finish my studies. I graduated from les Beaux-Arts and immediately got a job as an art teacher in a high school. I did that for two years and then I went to New York. We lived in Brooklyn and it was really impressive for us. A lot of urban influences in my actual drawings come from there. I started to work on murals paintings and got good feedback and opportunities to realize projects.

What brought you to Israel, and what interests you about the place?

Our son brought us to Israel. Even if Elanit is originally from Tel Aviv, the main reason of our coming is to give to our child a quality of life that is not possible in Paris: sun, sea, less stress, less pollution…of course, racism and terror are hard to live with, but those subjects are for another time.

In these drawings there are often magical transformations – a bird has a women’s legs, a beast becomes a piano – why do you use these types of images?

The half woman-bird, hatching her eggs, is a creature that incarnates the social role of the mother in the big children factory. Well dressed for their husband, tools of vanities but as fragile as a bird who can be jailed within them. The beast-piano is in the center of this apocalypse like driving a monstrous dance.  I am fascinated by freaky aspects and transformation… like it was in some primitives periods (miniaturist Flemish painting is one reference of this work), but this freakiness spread also through contemporary sciences and genetic mutations. This research of transformation is linked to the idea of pushing the limits of an entity. A way to show hidden aspect or to deconstruct evidences I was talking about is to bring closer things that are not used to be together. I think also, that it is one of drawing’s interests: something which is not really done, not really finished, still in a mutation.

I was struck by your answer to reasons for living in Israel, you mention a better quality of life for your child, and then racism and  terror.  How does this seeming dichotomy come out in your work?

I don’t really know how this dichotomy comes out in my work. Sometimes I can start to work in a positive inspired spirit; and some others I need to talk about a problematic subject that could invade me if I don’t draw it. To draw is for me an activity close to writing. Anyway, by do not watch TV, I do not feed myself on terror. It is obvious that the media invests in terror. This brainwashing can become quickly depressing.

You mention changing the distance from which we see things, could you talk a bit more about that?

Changing the distance we are used to is a way to solve. Most of the time, problems get harder when you block them. Changing the distance of looking by pushing away what is coming to invade your mind… and try to bring closer what is consider uninteresting. Nowadays, most of my drawings treat problems (political, social, psychological). There are a lot of points of view to focus on problems. One can look something dramatically, another can look the same problems with humor. I think that heaviness of problems doesn’t come from the problem itself, but from the relationships we maintain with them.