Jamian Juliano-Villani’s Painting Compulsion | ART21 “New York Close Up”


[REGGAE MUSIC PLAYS] I think I like reggae because it’s like listening
to a party. It’s like almost company, in a sense. [Jamian Juliano-Villani, artist] It’s music that’s actually made from necessity. They built their own soundsystems, their own speakers, their own recording devices, and, like, they just used the shit that they
had. [“New York Close Up”] Well, that’s kind of what I do, too. Like, I make my paintings out of necessity and like using the things around me to communicate
what I need to, because I’m really bad at articulating how
I feel, vocally. The paintings do that for me. [“Jamian Juliano-Villani’s Painting Compulsion”] [CLICKING SOUNDS FROM CAMERA PHONE SHUTTER] I just like this book because it’s like really basic ways to compare things. When I look at something, I just take notes
of ideas. Green. Suede. Fleece. Tower of Babel. Microscopic life. Hummingbird. Hand and egg. Daddy long legs. Daddy super long legs. And you know that daddy long legs are the
most poisonous spider in the world? Except that they don’t have teeth. So if they had teeth, you would be dead. For the one I’m doing now with the feet, those are Bruce Nauman feet. I want the feet to somehow look scared, if I could figure that out. So maybe a daddy long legs would do it. Ever since I was little, I just kind of have
this registry of facts in my brain. In high school, I used to keep scrap books
of all the things that I liked. I would just cut them out and put them in
there and save them. And I think that these are the kinds of things
that made me feel comfortable. And it seemed so natural, when I started painting, to kind of do the same thing. When I’m working, I have probably, like, thirty
images that, in a month or two months, I’ll keep on coming back to. I really will try to make those work with
what I’m doing. But, they never look like they’re supposed
to be together. That’s when shit gets good. That’s when the painting can change from “an
image-based narrative” into something else. So, it could get dark or surreal or funny or fucked up– it’s like I’m trying to deliver a baby, you
know? And the baby is, like, really… has like eight arms and is really fucked up and, like, I don’t know how to deliver a baby,
you know? I’m trying to figure out what kind of person
this is going to be. Because I don’t think it should be as simple
as a human face, and I also don’t know if it should just be
an animal, either. But, right now, I’m kind of just scrolling
through a bunch of images. I’m just going to plop around and see what
feels right. No. Too dumb. So this is Shen Koo. I really like his work. He’s like this, kind of, crazy apocalyptic
illustrator. The reason why I use cartoons a lot of the
times is because I like that they’re a kind of populist
way of communicating. Because painting is not populist at all, you
know? –I kind of like that idea. I respond to things immediately in like an emotional, guttural way, and that’s how decisions are formed. It’s like when something pisses you off. Something stresses you out. Or, you like the color of something. You’re like, “I like that sweater,” “Fuck it, I want that sweater.” You know? It’s like… [SNAPS FINGERS] Like that. [SOUND OF A CAR SCREECHING TO A HALT AND THEN CRASHING] I feel much better about doing the paintings
I do by using other references so it’s not so insular– it’s not so personal. They’re also helping me figure out the things that I can’t communicate yet to
myself. The one painting I did with the wavy fox in
that cage, that’s fucking me, you know!? That’s how I felt. I didn’t realize it then. I think they’re all extensions of me or self-portraits in some way– or at least an attitude that I have. Those are things you can’t necessarily put
into words. And, like, having a really rough childhood… And, I also have a twin, so it was really hard for me to talk to other
people. I would just talk to my twin, and that would
be it, you know? And, like, I didn’t need any friends. And I didn’t really have any friends growing
up, you know? Like, maybe two? One of them was my sibling. Uh, doesn’t really count. I think because of that, I have a hard time
communicating with people, or, like, connecting with people. Having to, like, basically just rely on myself. It’s like, if I don’t take care of myself,
no one else will. I have this obsessive relationship with my
work and the way I work because it’s kind of like my friend. It’s like the thing that validates me–makes
me feel good. I care about it and they care about me. It’s why I put the things that I collect–and
really, really love– in my paintings, you know? Like, they’re almost company, in a sense.

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