At the Archiginnasio of Bologna is staged, until 18th October, Anatomy of Identity, a solo show by the French artist and graphic designer Jules Julien. The exhibition depicts the series Français! already part of a group show commissioned by French town Metz for their Nuit Blanche in 2011.
On display 130 posters which are a new version of the ancient coats of arms from French tradition and the rest of the world. The exhibition was created as answer to former Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy’s debate on French identity in 2009. Julien’s work is an excursus on human nature and identity nowadays, between nationalism and globalization. A journey inside the contemporary society divide between his roots and influences intercultural that surrounding it.
A complex and current theme that Julien summarized taking full advantage of the strength of vividly but very effective range of colors and bright with use of a strong and essential line drawing that can permit a readability and clarity of expression. Julien is an artist whose works illustrative explore and question the reality of the world around us through a minimal, abstract aesthetic, but extremely expressive that makes his work immediately recognizable. The exhibition runs between the halls of the Archiginnasio Library, an ancient space strongly characterized, whose walls are covered by hundreds of ancient coat of arms from Bologna’s history which offering an interesting and unusual confrontation where ancient and modern merge fully. A parallel connection accentuate from the exhibition set-up where the works of Julian descend from the ceiling just as the ancient tapestries noble in medieval castles. Jules Julien, who now lives in Amsterdam divides his time between commissioned work for a range of international clients and his personal artistic projects. He has worked with companies of international importance such as Diesel, Lancôme, Cartier, Acer computers, Grazia magazine and Sony. The artist has also been presented in several publications worldwide and has exhibited his works in Berlin, Paris, Zurich, New York, London, Valencia, Madrid, Montreal, Hollywood, San Diego and Tokyo, where in 2008 He took his first solo exhibition. We interviewed him.
Your exhibition was realized in respond to Nicolas Sarkozy’s debate on French identity.
What do you think is it a national identity even in response at recent worldwide events? Actually, this is exactly the aim of the installation presented at the Archiginnasio under the title Anatomy of Identity. This is about diversity, about an identity always changing, always progressing. Why being afraid today about something that has always existed? We just should have a peek on our own family trees. Mine for example is made by French people, but also Italian and Spanish too. In any cases, if national identity exists inside all of us, a new global identity is coming, but no because migrants as ones to lead us to believe but more because internet. My own vision about that is to work with the movement not to try to stop it, There is a sentence I like, I don’t remeber from where it was: ‘A moving forward society is a society without rearview mirror’.
Why you choose to use the coats of arms as the start element for your reworked version?
The idea was to say that even in a small place in France there is diversity. So I have collected all the french Coat of Arms of place in France, not the families. It includes; regions, departments and big or small cities. I have collected the Arms of coat of all countries in the world and I mixed all of them on 150 posters. Pieces of blazons stick together to creates new shape and new mental territories.
How do you conduct your iconographic research? How do you interpret these influences? What elements have most inspired your illustrations?
I work a lot on an iconographic stock of thing, they can be pieces of bodies, of wear, landscapes, blazons… I like play with collective topics like Love, fashion, religion, nation, History… they are much things to do. I try each time to go in a new universe. This way keep me too surprised in my work.
In your work we find a very effective range of colors in a clarity execution but the idea at the basis and message behind your work is very strong.
How do you work to find the right balance between all of these elements? I come from advertising, originally I was art director for 10 years. This work educates your eyes to empower a picture and to make it fast readable. I keep today the taste of this kind of pictures. I work mine until they mark my own eyes. I like the idea to work on pieces with the strength of a pictogram and the delicacy of hand made. On another side staying away of trend keeps me singular.
You are a graphic artist, an illustrator and a designer. What do you think, is this you artistic identity?
I live in the movement. I could not be only One thing. Each way feeds the other and makes them moving in peculiar ways. I don’t like the idea to be enclosed in a discipline, this flet myself dead. I feel personal identity like something evasive for oneself.
I really enjoy the contrast between your art works and the ancient space of Archiginnasio. What do you think about this location?
The contrasts and the links between the Archiginnasio Library in Bologna and the installation looks strange. They are opposite and the same time similar. I really enjoyed to be at Archiginnasio, I felt something special inside all kinds of people form all continents here to learn from their teachers and form each other too. Diversity was a big part of this place.
Finally, what you will be your next project?
I work at the moment on different projects from a fanzine for a coming show in Japan to illustrations to come in the magazine of philosophy by a group show starting in France in November called Chapelle Fifteen.
Anatomy of Identity is part of the rich program of events and initiatives promoted by Fruit, which will culminate in the fourth edition of Fruit Exhibition, a festival aimed at becoming self-produced editorial container dedicated to publishing art of Bologna, scheduled from 29 to 31 January 2016 in conjunction with Artefiera.