The law of attraction: art crush on painter Oda Jaune.
NOMINATED BY JINA KHAYYER
INTERVIEW BY KATE LAWSON
“I paint as though I could touch and remove the insides of people,” says the Paris-based painter and sculptor Oda Jaune, who creates strikingly beautiful, evocative and poetic works which focus on fusing the human body, emotional states and the subconscious - depicting our inner most thoughts as organic and physical forms, inviting the viewer to interpret their own expectations.The mind sees what it wants to see, and Jaune is an artist who all too readily plays with this notion, resulting in compositions which achieve a mind-bending dynamism born from a passion to explore and reveal the inner self, an unmasking of the layers which make up our very physical being. Ahead of her forthcoming exhibition Masks which opened this month in Paris, we spoke with the artist about transporting feelings, personal motivation and freedom.
Oda Jaune is a really beautiful name, but it’s not your birth name is it?
I was born Michaela Danovska, but I needed a name which would be my very own as a painter, so I asked my husband Jörg (Immendorff, the late Düsseldorf art professor), to choose one for me when I was 19 years old. Oda is German for ‘Precious’ and Jaune is French for ‘Yellow’.
What was your first interaction with art, and when did you first start to paint?
I was born into a family of artists. My first memories are the ones in my Father’s studio which was the most amazing place for me. There were hundreds of different colours in little glass pots, paper and cutters, art books - then in my sisters studio, wet canvases, the toxic smell of the turpentine and oil colours. They were the two holy spaces at home.
When they were both working I would spend hours observing them painting, keeping quiet not to disturb them, and when they were away I would touch everything, trying not to leave any traces. I must have been 4 or 5 years old when I started to paint.
What does painting mean to you?
So much.. but if I had to choose only one word then it would be.. freedom.
“Very early on, when I was a schoolchild in Bulgaria, I painted naked people in notebooks and on benches. I was seven maybe. Naturally, that didn’t make a good impression.”
That’s interesting, because I was going to ask if you see painting as a very lonely experience - a space where you have to retreat into yourself and your thoughts?
It is a very lonely thing but in a very nice way you are not alone, as you know about what has been before you and your white canvas - all the masterpieces, all the artists, you are not alone.. because you dare to try, and to imagine.
What motivates you when you see the blank canvas, what do you imagine?
You see it as the start of a new life and it is all in your hands, you make the first step and the jump. It’s about that feeling. Honestly, it’s the best moment.
You use a lot of color in your work, is it a key tool of communication for you about the human self?
And what about the materials you use and your technique?
Very simple, oil on canvas and watercolor on paper.
Your subject matter is very focused on what is hidden inside us as human beings, how would you describe your vision?
What triggers me is what is inside, what is hidden behind, when it gets deep there and there is no real light, what can be found in the darkness and brought to light. I’ve always been fascinated with the notion of uncovering what is inside. Very early on, when I was a schoolchild in Bulgaria, I painted naked people in notebooks and on benches. I was seven maybe. Naturally, that didn’t make a good impression. But I noticed the effect such pictures have. I believe that our culture is characterised strongly by the idea of covering up and concealing. We treat and embellish the skins we live in, and at the same time it conceals our inner processes: our organs, our blood circulation, our digestion, or our feelings. I’m interested in what penetrates the surface and what is underneath it. Trying to do away with the polarity between inside and outside, between body and mind. I try to give “inner” thoughts or feelings organic forms.
“Often people don’t believe that I’m the painter or they expect somebody older - and often they expect a man.”
Do your dreams ever inspire your work?
I rarely remember them, for me sleep is a physical need, but I like the morning, I like opening my eyes. I love the complete consciousness, and from there going to the subconscious
Does that journey from conscious to sub-conscious also play out in your concepts of the real, the hyper-real and the imagined within your works?
I try to transport a thought, a feeling, something a person conceals, to the outside.
We don’t know what some things look like. For example, we don’t know what a soul looks like. When I paint a heart, I don’t want to depict the organ but to make a certain mental or spiritual state concretely visible. I try to achieve this state by fusing a person or a thing with another thing or with its surroundings, by positioning, combining, and presenting this organ properly. Of course I don’t know whether this composition triggers the same feelings and thoughts in the viewer that it does in me. The only thing that counts for me is that someone who views the painting finds something like a key for translating my pictures - that my painting directly addresses the viewer’s own experiences, that the viewer recognises something that really has to do with him or her. I paint as though I could touch and remove the insides of people.
Do you believe in an afterlife, that our spirits and souls live on?
And what would you like to come back as?
I would be a human being again. A new experience.
You’re based in Paris - how often and where do you work?
I work every day in my studio in the 6th - and when I travel I have my watercolors with me.
“I believe that what is really of importance will overcome gender questions - it just won’t be of any importance one day.”
What do you love and hate about living in Paris?
Paris is love! I am totally in love with it, it’s my 8th year in the city now.
Paris is also one of the style capitals - does fashion play a role in your life, and if so, how?
I love the changes in fashion, changing my outside, I love transformation - clothing is the layer between the body and the outer world so it is important.
And what does an artist carry in her handbag?
I never take a handbag to the studio, my hands are free - keys and phone in my pocket that’s all!
Do you think you’re a perfectionist when it comes to your work and / or life?
Yes I am.
Tell me about your first big experience in the art world, what was it like?
It was my first exhibition in Paris, the first week after I moved to France with my daughter in 2008 in order to begin a new life. I started working with the Galerie Daniel Templon, a place with over 40 years of history. They saw my work and asked me if I would be able to do a show in three months, so I said yes - and that was the start for me. I worked hard day and night for the show, but I never expected the huge success that came after it and the reactions from people, it meant a lot to me.
And what about the reviews - has there been one response to your work in particular that has really made a lasting impression on you?
Most of the time I’m surprised with what the responses are, there have been so many and sometimes it’s funny, often people don’t believe that I’m the painter or they expect somebody older - and often they expect a man.
Which leads me perfectly into my next question - do you think there is still a glass ceiling as far as women in art are concerned, in terms of how underrepresented they still are in galleries and art spaces?
I like to think a step further ahead for the artist and I believe that what (who) is really of importance will overcome gender questions, time, zeitgeist, any kind of taste or fashion or any other reason - it just won’t be of any importance one day.
“What triggers me is what is inside, what is hidden behind, when it gets deep there and there is no real light, what can be found in the darkness and brought to light.”
What are you working on right now and do you have any exhibitions planned?
My show Masks in Paris at Galerie Daniel Templon (from 6th June until 26th July), fea-tures 45 new watercolours. In October there is also a book coming out - an art mono-graph - with more than 200 works from the past 15 years published by Roads publishing with text by Catherine Millet.I am also preparing a show with only sculptures which will be shown in Berlin next year.
Do you ever take time off, what do you like to do when you’re not painting?
I love to spend time with my daughter, my family, I love them very much, and my friends, and the world. There are so many places I have not been and I just like to imagine them and would like to visit them all one day. I also like dancing too!
“If I’m in a period of intense work which lasts for months, then I don’t do anything apart from that. No TV, no newspaper, nothing.”
And what about your favorite art world hangouts? Do you go to a lot of openings, museums, galleries, and other artists’ studios?
No I am very bad at it, I miss some of the most amazing exhibitions in Paris. If I’m in a period of intense work which lasts for months, then I don’t do anything apart from that. No TV, no newspaper, nothing. But if not then I love going to museums and openings of shows, it’s about showing respect to the artist’s work and if they are friends it’s very spe-cial to be there, sharing the moment.
So my final question - in a world that has become obsessed with the ‘selfie’, as a painter, would you ever do a self-portrait, but in your own signature style?
I am the last thing I am interested in painting. So I might be the last thing I paint!
See more: Oda Jaune 10 inspiring icons.