The Napolitan passion
| The phone rings. « Can I call you back in 5 minutes, I’m on my bike? ». We are getting out of a 1-year lockdown gradually. Jean Mallard just arrived at a friend’s in the south of Paris right before curfew. He is finishing Arts Décoratifs school in a month.
Still a student for a few days, Jean has not waited for a long time before launching himself into illustration. In 2018, as part of Arts Décoratifs, he proposed a series of drawings to the Bologna Foire d’Illustration’s jury. His work is noticed and he is rewarded by the Grand Price Award. He went with two friends. « It was a good time to meet editors and see what is going on in the world. This is how I discovered the illustration scene and Italian illustrators » he says. In 2019, while he just left the animated movie scene, an amazing opportunity knocks to his door. He gets offered a grant to illustrate a book for a year in Italie.
At that moment, he is in contact with the Slow Galerie, an atypical art shop dedicated to illustration and graphic arts, installed in a former pharmacy in Paris 11th arrondissement. « They told me, what are you doing nowadays? – I am in Naples and it’s really inspiring. They replied : in a year, you’ll do an expo about Naples in Paris ». For a year, Jean Mallard works on this project, immersed in the Napolitan atmosphere where he is like a fish in the sea. The Mediterranean climate and his inhabitants who talk and invent their lives are an endless source of inspiration for him.
Originally, Jean Mallard is a comic book afficionado. But it’s finally in illustrated books he turned to. « It really evolved during my studies. I have been more attentive to people who are interested in drawing now and to those who like my drawings. It drove me to illustrated books » he tells. Jean is now working as an illustrator for authors, magazines, editions, institutions, like the Explora Museum in Rome, Bordeaux City, Emotions podcasts, No Filter or the artist Théo Ceccaldi.
If commissioned work is a necessary step in an illustrator path, it’s not always easy to put someone’s art at someone else’s ordered service while bringing their personal artistic view. « I realized that the more I like doing a drawing, the better it is also perceived. It’s something I feel. If the orders are too guided, it doesn’t work. What has motivated me in a drawing for a long time, is the story. The idea to tell things in a drawing is the ultimate trip » he admits. « It’s nice to tell other people’s stories but I want to tell my own stories. This is what I will devote myself to shortly, even if it is very intimidating. Drawing is a thing but with words we are even more exposed ».
However, without using words, his illustrations already tell stories through interesting life crowds, hidden in large format art where we discover a new detail each day. « At the beginning, I was doing a lot of comics and my characters were speaking but then I went to a more silent type of drawing. On the Naples series for example, I like the idea that there are a lot of details, that we give material to people and that they can take what they want and they can tell their stories in their own way, like a big buffet where there are a lot of things and each person can take what they want ».
In these big size and colorful panoramas, Jean Mallard paints the city’s outcry and the warmth of the end of summer. We get lost in the sunsets where skies and sea get mixed up and remind us of Japanese prints. Although it might not please his architect father who he admired as a child, perspective doesn’t matter anymore. For him, the goal is that the places are closer to the real world but that the emotion gets in. This conviction comes from an experience he lived during the exposition « Le Monde d’Asie – Au fil des Cartes, in 2018 at the Musée Grimet ». « I got slapped ! I realized that the maps used to be painted by artists and not really scientists. They represented the world in an artistic and narrative way instead of a rational one. They flattened the image not because they were not able to draw but to tell more things ».
He develops this approach and uses it in Naples, while creating the Spanish district diptych he worked on for a month. He draws Naples life, night and day in this tight neighborhood and with a lot of streets where the Spanish King had to build quickly for his soldiers to have a place to live when they arrived in the city. « It’s an amazing neighborhood, full of life, it’s a real maze. I did not know what to draw anymore. I made a big map and put everything in it ». He says
Among Jean’s sources of inspiration, there is of course naïve painting. We find Le Douanier Rousseaux and the other lesser-known naïve he discovered at Musée Maillol. We also find painters from Latin America like Lasar Segall for example. He is also sensitive to painters David Hockney, Paul Clay, Jean-Michel Folon. Jean admits to having been greatly inspired as a child by the films of Hayao Miyazaki or the work of Claude Ponti which gave him a taste for drawing.
Jean Mallard will soon publish a children’s book by Camelo Zampa.
Le Douanier Rousseau, Louis Vivin, Lasar Segall, Manuel Marsol, Claude Ponti, David Hockney, Paul Cley, Jean-Michel Folon, Hayao Miyazaki, Jeanne Macaigne, Anne Laval, Valerio Vidali, Jesus Cisneros, Brecht Evens, henryk Plociennik, Elenia Beretta, Vassily Kandinsky, Tsuguharu Foujita, Béatrice Alemagna, Reza Dalvand, Henrietta MacPhee, Fra Angelico, Paqaru, Virginie Cognet, Beya Rebai, Agnes Hostache, Marc Martinillo, Léa Maupetit , Yamashita Kiyoshi, Matrakçı Nasuh, Moebius, Claire Nicolet, Harriet Lee-Merrion
Watercolor (object of fascination being small when his architect father drew), gouache, acrylic, pastel, homemade pigments, a little post prod on computer, sometimes photoshop. In project: painting on wood.
Where to find him?
Many thanks to Virginie Bermann (@virginiebe_) for the translation.