Jean Paul is a Métis artist from Vancouver Island, currently painting in East Vancouver. His work is informed by television and cinema, particularly Westerns, 70s sci-fi and Saturday morning cartoons. Using ultra-saturated colours, references to art history and well-worn cinema tropes, he seeks to understand the alienation to his own cultural backgrounds, both indigenous and settler. His work is an examination of his own life, through the reinterpretation of family stories using characters and motifs from the pop culture he was weaned on. The result is a very recognizable style of familiar figures in their own world of bright colours and flattened space.
If you wandered through Herridge Lane in the summer of 2019, you may have heard the tell-tale notes of a Western soundtrack riding through the alley, or you may have seen Jean Paul painting away against the summer heat, with his dog Fred supervising from the shade. Jean Paul is a Métis artist from Vancouver Island, currently based in East Vancouver, and is known for several collections of artworks including “Fake Indians”, “Origin Stories”, “Old West” and “Ape City”, as well as a mural for the 2018 Vancouver Mural Festival.
What inspires/influences you as an artist, and what themes can we expect to find in your work?
Jean Paul: There is a quote from Richard Prince that he doesn’t see a difference between what he collects and the art he creates. I feel the same, but for me, it’s the films that I watch and the art I create. I watch a ton of films: westerns, noir, Japanese (especially samurai), old cartoons, 70s sci-fi, the original Planet of the Apes (there was a tv series and Saturday morning cartoon no one remembers). This stuff all appears in my work. Also, art history plays a role. Recently I’ve been
looking at Canadian landscape artists. I used to hate that stuff. Now I find Lawren Harris or old Inuit artists have these cartoony qualities that I like to borrow…
Would you agree that art is a medium/catalyst for change (social, political,
environmental, etc?) Why/why not?
Jean Paul: At one time that might have been true. Even our grandest art accomplishments like great films or architecture don’t affect much change. People hardly take a moment to look. Sadly, a painting is only worth a short glance by most people and then they are distracted back to the click bait….
Do you have any goals/hopes/dreams for how viewers interact with your artworks?
Jean Paul: On opening night of the festival I witnessed a man in a wheelchair staring at my mural for a few minutes, really taking it in. I was moved by his attention and clear enjoyment. I had a visit with him afterward and was overjoyed to hear how much he got it. That was pretty satisfying.
What can you tell us about the piece you are creating for the Nelson International Mural Festival?
Jean Paul: As I said, film and particularly westerns inform my work a lot. In this case, I had seen three films which affected me greatly right at the time I was selected for the festival. Heaven’s Gate, Cheyenne Autumn, and I Will Fight No More Forever. The themes of all three revolve around eviction and displacement and this weighed heavily on my design. It’s such a relevant theme. In my neighbourhood in East Vancouver with rent evictions and the housing crisis, to what’s happening with immigrants and refugees on an international basis. It even applies to the so-called ‘extinct’ Sinixt people of the Kootenays….
So, I wanted to do a depiction of a mass eviction, with one half the enforcers (the cowboy thugs) and the other side the exodus of the dispossessed, wandering the desert. It’s obviously up to the viewer to make up their own meaning. It was fun listening to parents asking their children what they thought it was…. some pretty good answers.
I finally came up with a title while reading “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison: DISPOSSESSED, UNVANQUISHED.
Fred must have a pretty artistic eye by now; does he give you any feedback on your work or help out on big mural projects?
Jean Paul: Well since Fred decided to get in a rumble with a skunk on the last weekend of my visit to your lovely town, he’s pretty much cut out of all decision making….
You can find Dispossessed, Unvanquished in Herridge Lane, behind Cowan Office Supply.