Juli Jah (LT) – Un-hidden Romania interview [en]
Juli Jah, by her real name Juliana Žamoit, is a Lithuanian visual artist who lives and works in Berlin. We’ve been following some of her work closely, first becoming aware of it through vinyl releases featuring her watercolour and ink illustrations, some of which we’ve reviewed in our feeder EP reviews column. Read our conversation with Juli Jah to discover her artistic universe and find out more about her appreciation of meaningful, emotional, complicated works, her perspective on Berlin and Vilnius, and music. As we are deeply moved by her intricate, expressive representations of fauna, flora and portraits, we are super excited to receive from Juli Jah a special bird, drawn for this interview, which you can find below, while reading our conversation.
Illustrator / Berlin / Watercolour / Ink
f: Hello, Juli, let’s start by discussing your statement that “Art is a scam and a rip-off.” What determined your current view of the art world? Do you feel that it has always been like this or is there a time in art history that you believe could be a benchmark for us today? Where do you see yourself in this vast and eclectic landscape we call contemporary art?
Juli Jah: Hello Cristina,
There is a true art market, and there is also simultaneously a rip-off industry. The main thing is to preserve the motivation behind a piece – to not let the value of paintings become more important to an artist than creating beautiful or meaningful work. I like art that is beautiful, emotional, complicated and doesn’t fall under the money-driven umbrellas that are set by galleries.
Contemporary performance art is huge. I would say that there is the complicated kind, and then there is the too complicated kind, you know what I mean?
Please check art performances by Marina Abramović. Or even more bizarre art project by Guillermo Vargas that exhibited an emaciated dog in a gallery. Someone would say that it’s complicated, cruel art, I would say it’s a perfect social experiment that falls under the art field.
Art can also be used as a weapon – a really dangerous weapon, actually. Contemporary art can be smart, educating and can put really big topics on the table. Let’s take Vargas’s art installation as an example, why do we get so disturbed by a dying dog in a gallery, but remain dead calm about the millions of animals getting butchered for the food industry? So back to your question, I am doing my very own thing and I am happy if it brings some kind of beauty into someone’s world, too. And yes, I like to take an interest in the art scene, sometimes I also prefer to know nothing about it, absolutely nothing.
Juli Jah Graphite Ink
f: We saw your work early this year in support of the 2019 Women’s March in Berlin. Since we’re writing to you shortly after International Women’s Day, what would be your message to women – either fellow artists or women in general? Are there any women who have inspired you in your career choice?
Juli Jah: We are living a good life here in Europe. For those who don’t understand the idea of the Women’s March, it might be funny to see a bunch of feminists protesting on the streets, but how many of those people take an interest in the situation of these women, who for example are not allowed to receive an education, vote or drive? Obviously, there is the problem that requires fixing and there are many things that need to be discussed and dragged into the light.
Women have to unite, support and fight for their rights, keeping the elegance and grace at the same time – I strongly believe that disrespect invites disrespect. In the end, it’s not a competition, it’s not a war. It’s all about equality.
The woman that inspired me, helped me to develop and find myself in the arts is my Mom. Her love for the flowers and plants that she takes care of is one of my earliest childhood memories. She is my compass, from the early years.
f: Your artistic universe comprises floral elements, wild animals, hybrid creatures and colourful birds, images that seem inspired by childhood memories, as well as depictions of buildings and cities, perhaps echoes of your background in architecture. You also tend to focus on exploring femininity and the female beauty, sometimes captured in a state of symbiosis with nature, as plants and animal features shape the body. So please take us through your main themes and the emotions you want to convey to the viewer.
Juli Jah: Maybe it’s just an Aquarius thing, but I am a true master at ignoring my feelings. My nature finds it very hard to show or trust my emotions. It often happens that I am getting lost and, literally, stop thinking while I am drawing. I guess creating is the way I can express my emotions and in this way, most of my works might have a meaning that I am not even aware of and you could find the answers only deep in my subconscious.
Let’s say, some of my works are made to let people feel how they need to feel. There are also those artworks, that make people feel the way I want them to feel. Art can’t be something you are giving to the public like a cookie and coffee-to-go. I guess only when you stop caring about other people’s opinions and do what you feel – then it becomes art, then it speaks to and touches people’s souls, then it is unique and powerful – it can see, teach and learn.
Juli Jah Vinyl coves
f: In previous interviews, you expressed your love for music. One main component of your work consists of vinyl covers for different record labels. We also shared a few of your artworks – for Subtil Records and Unic Records. When did your passion for electronic music begin? What are the artists/ songs/ albums you listen to the most nowadays?
Juli Jah: I love music, all kinds. To be perfectly frank, it’s not only electronic music. I can completely get lost in classical, jazz music. I am cycling through eclectic playlists and I don’t think we should put this all to genres. There is just “music” and in absolutely every genre you will find something interesting. Listening to a good piece sends you directly to the place you want to be. It’s a good drug that I am addicted to since I got my first tape recorder. I have an older brother who involved me in electronic music and the club scene in Vilnius back in the days when I was a teenager. It all began there.
I got a bit obsessed with jazz and ambient music lately. Bohren & Der Club of Gore or old good Muslimgauze experimental pieces. I listen to movie soundtracks often, too. Long story short, I like everything with a bit of a dark and mysterious touch that helps me have a good flow while working.
f: What are your current music-related collaborations and the upcoming projects you’re excited about in Berlin and beyond? You’ve been working with a lot of Romanian artists. What are your thoughts regarding the Romanian electronic music scene?
Juli Jah: I am doing vinyl album covers for many record labels, so basically it’s always something going on; sooner or later ending on social media, Discogs, record shelves.
I really would like to put extreme focus on painting now. I started working on illustrations for the book that my friend is writing, too. We are having a little summer break at the moment, but I hope this project will still see the light of day and then let’s see where it will bring us.
The Romanian electronic music scene is massive. I had some proper and really long raves that’s for sure.
Juli Jah sketches
f: Are films an inspiration, besides music? We saw, for instance, that you have an artwork showing the main characters in the movie “Léon: The Professional”. Are there any film titles you’d like to recommend to our readers? What other creative fields and daily activities fuel your imagination?
Juli Jah: Not really. Once I worked on a project creating a cocktail menu for The Grand restaurant /bar here in Berlin. I had to draw the characters from different movies, but that was it, I think.
I like bizarre movies, and it’s not always about the story but about the cuts, colours, filters, the mood.
f: Among your projects, you have two street art interventions in Berlin – one at Tik Nord Performing Arts Theater and another at the Minimal Bar. What’s your relationship with street art? What do you love and find challenging about painting murals?
Juli Jah: I love painting murals and would love to have more projects as I did for Tik or Minimal Bar. Hopefully, something interesting will come up during the summer.
What’s challenging for me is to be on public display and the feeling of being ‘watched’. Some people stop to have a small talk with me, and this often drags me out of my workflow and then I need another 10 mins so I can focus and keep on working again. Long story short, I need a total peace while I am working.
Juli Jah Watercolour Ink
f: You moved from Vilnius to Berlin and said that living in different cities makes you emotionally richer. What emotion best describes your current home, Berlin? What’s different from Vilnius? When visiting a new city, what captures your attention, what makes it memorable?
Juli Jah: If you combine all the experiences you have gained while travelling or living in different cities/ countries your heart grows bigger. When you discover different cultures, meet people from all over the world – your mind is more open and your ability to create, appreciate life and understand others is deeper. Emotional intelligence is very important, and tolerance is the key to it. It’s also the only way to live a happy life on this planet.
Berlin is an insane, vivid and intense city. These are the first words that come to my mind. It’s mega beautiful, also very green. It’s like a battlefield between nature and urbanism. 1:1. I love it!
Vilnius is and always will be my home town, it’s a little pearl but changing rapidly. Sometimes I have a feeling that it is also slowly becoming more alien to me.
Juli Jah Urban art
f: If you were to visit Bucharest, how would you leave your creative mark here? Is there any place you know of and would like to visit? We’d also love to take you on a street art tour following the Un-hidden Bucharest map.
Juli Jah: Unfortunately the only place I have been in Bucharest is the airport, then have a short drive through the city on the way to Mamaia. I have some friends that moved from Berlin and London to live in the capital of Romania. They obviously have good reasons to do it. The city seems to be very beautiful and it definitely has a positive vibe.
Juli Jah feeder.ro Summer 2019
f: Since you often say that you draw what you feel and that music is your crush, let’s combine them right now. What music is playing on the background, when you’ve reached this final question? Share it with us along with a quick sketch of how you’re feeling.
Juli Jah: I have the “What We Leave Behind” album by Soundwalk Collective playing now. To be perfectly precise Ricardo’s remix that I like the most. But the whole album is dope, literally.
I made a quick illustration for you guys; it’s a bird chilling on a tree. I wish you all to enjoy the sun, spend more time outdoors and let your inner birds sing, always, not only in the summer. Cheers!
Interview by Cristina Popa & Emilia Cazan
Images © Juli Jah
This article is part of the Un-hidden Romania series of interviews with street art and graffiti artists, published weekly on feeder.ro. Together we will enter their artistic universe and learn how the city can be regenerated through artistic interventions in the public space.
Keep your eyes on feeder.ro, we’ll publish new interviews soon with iZZY iZVNE, Maria Bălan, John Dot S, Livi Po, J.Ace, Robert Obert, KSELEQOQYNQYSHY, Primitiv Print, Livia Fălcaru, Skinny Bunny, Obie Platon, Alina Marinescu, Maria Duda, Trun, Meguru Yamaguchi, Daia – Diana Grigore, Jan Kaláb, Aito Kitazaki, Tobias Barenthin Lindblad, Mihai Zgondoiu, Irina Marinescu, Kero Zen, Lost.Optics, Serebe, CAGE, ILUC, Nicolae Comănescu, Nicolás Alfalfa, Boeme1, SUNSHINERS, Pisica Pătrată, Alexander Blot, and more.
Un-hidden Romania is an urban regeneration programme conceived as a series of artistic interventions designed for the public space, co-created with the community, aiming at humanizing Bucharest and other cities in the country, as well as promoting their understanding and exploration through art.
The digital version of the street art map is available here:
Un-hidden Romania is an urban regeneration programme conceived as a series of artistic interventions designed for the public space, co-created with the community, aiming at humanizing Bucharest and promoting its understanding and exploration through art.
The Un-hidden Bucharest project was selected in the Multidisciplinary section of the Romanian Design Week 2019 exhibition, where it showcased, alongside the printed map, miniatures and objects by Pisica Pătrată, Maria Bălan, John Dot S & KSELEQOQYNQYSHY.
About Save or Cancel
Since 2008, Save or Cancel is a medium of communication and propagation of the arts and culture, promoting and facilitating their role in contemporary society.
The self-initiated multidisciplinary programs of Save or Cancel aim to identify sustainable and adaptable opportunities for (re) valorization of the existence through architectural, cultural and editorial projects.
Visit the project’s page Un-hidden Romania to find out more about past, current and future activities.