Jean Jullien: A Conscious Mind At Work

His personal website describes him as a “French graphic artist” whose practice ranges from “illustration to photography, video, costumes, installations, books, posters, and clothing to create a coherent yet eclectic body of work.” An interview with Ours magazine described Jean Jullien’s works as “gently pressing at the restrictive seams of judgment, prejudice, and stereotypes.” They even went so far as to refer to him as an “unrecognized activist.” No matter how you categorize him there is no denying the reach and significance of Jean Jullien’s artistry.

Recently, Jullien’s work has taken shape in the wake of the maze of terror attacks that have bludgeoned their way through Europe. But he also spoke out when Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014, taking to social media to work through the emotional and cultural implications. He depicted a handcuffed black man with a white policeman tracing around his body with chalk — what happens at a murder scene — but the only difference was the man was still alive. Most notably, however, have been his responses to ISIS-related attacks. He drew the now-infamous illustration of a pencil jamming the barrel of a gun following the Charlie Hebdo attack in January of 2015. Almost a year later, Jullien once again offered the world an artistic salve in reaction to the Paris attacks in November 2015 with his “Peace for Paris” illustration. And he’s aware of the role art plays in the wake of devastation. “It’s something that I really want to do in my work,” he told Ours. “It’s important to me, but I can also see how tricky it is,” he explains. “People are extremely prone to seeing evil in what you do; you never know how someone can interpret something.”

The drawing, The Telegraph notes, was retweeted more than 42,000 times and shared on Facebook more than 22,000 times. If there were ever a barometer for social influence in the aftermath of tragedy, Jullien’s social-media reach would serve as the guiding measurement for his far-reaching impact. Interestingly enough, Jullien admits that one of the lowest points of his career in 2015 was that his exposure increased due to the tragedies his intrinsically responded to. When asked about how he felt about the success of the drawing, he told Wired, “I’m sort of almost embarrassed to be getting that much exposure as a result of such a tragic event. However, it really shows that this is how we communicate not just as humans, but as a society. It can break down barriers. Sometimes it is difficult to shed light on what is true or not, but I think people have an instinctive sense of how to use these forms of communication. In cases like this, the things that need to spread, spread. And this seems to have been a very positive use of this form of hyper-communication.”

Stepping away from his influence on a political and social level, 2015 was very much a banner year for Jullien without paying attention to his reflexive takes. He worked on a clothing collection with Olow, moved to New York after leaving London, created a TV series with his brother, and was featured on the cover of SZ Magazin for sex education. His flexibility as an artist is certainly one of his strongest suits — and in 2016, we’ll likely see more of his ability to bend, react, and roll with the punches.

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