Interview with Parisian Artist Jordane Saget

Jordane Saget c Pierre Vassal

Jordane Saget is a young contemporary artist and street artist based in Paris. His work contributes to shaping the city’s identity as it stands today.

For over a decade now, Jordane has developed a unique visual style based on a set of three lines which have come to be a distinctive part of contemporary Parisian street art.

Since 2015, Jordane was laying out his lines in chalk or paint, without ever signing his work. In these few short years, he has already created over 2000 pieces, either temporary or permanent.

As his works grows in visibility, it has been the subject of several exhibitions as well as leading to a number of collaborations with various artists and organisations, including fashion designers Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Agnès b. or charity group Les Enfoirés.

Did you have an artistic approach during your childhood?

I did, insofar as I would endlessly sketch all sort of geometrical (and not so geometrical) shapes on my school note books. As it happens, I was actually trying to find a formula for beauty, even back then. Needless to say, I didn’t quite find it.

Did anyone or anything inspire you at that time?

I am sure many things inspired me, albeit somewhat subliminally. You see, at the time, art was not a conscious focus of mine, just something I did largely without thinking. It became a conscious act much later, in my 20’s, when I decided to actually give it a proper go. Interestingy, my first inspiration then was actually Tai Chi Chuan, the Chinese martial art, which I practised for many years and instilled in me this notion of fluidity and movement that is quite prominent in my work to this day.

Why did you chose contemporary art?

I didn’t really choose contemporary art so much as it chose me. As I was working in the hospitality industry and trying to make sense of what I wanted to do next in life, I was given a notepad and a pen by a friend who suggested I should start writing. Instead, I drew… My lines didn’t show up fully formed, obviously, but the shapes I drew then did contain a lot of fluidity and circular elements. It then took several more years to come up with my trio of lines.

Do you have any preferred surfaces to paint on?

I would have to say — the pavement. When I work in the street, there is an immense freedom in choosing my own canvas: I pick a spot, surface, situation that inspires me and I start drawing. I use different materials, but my preference goes to chalk, because it is the most versatile and immediate. I can almost feel the pavement “resisting” to my drawing, which makes it all the more lively.

How do you see the city as a space?

The city is my playground, as they say. More to the point, it effectively forms my universe. I walk around Paris day in and day out, ride my bike down every street, as I keep exploring it and finding new things, places, situations I never saw — or noticed — before. In other words, what interests me in the city in general and Paris in particular is the neverending new experiences and encounters it brings, which then drive my inspiration.

Before you paint, do you have a sketch-in-hand book or is it spontaneous?

I do paint on the pavement sometimes, but only in special circumstances: I started a “yellow signage” series a few years ago to highlight holes and crevices in the city, but I mostly draw or use a marker outdoors. When I do, I don’t sketch it out first: instead, I let the situation inspire me and I start drawing my lines. In return, they give me inspiration and the work develops. There are a few basic rules to my drawings, such as my three lines, but the rest is largely improvised.

Do you record your urban work?

I often take pictures — and now videos — of my work to document it. When I started drawing in the street, back around 2015, this was a way for people to discover what I did, as I never signed any of my pieces. People would notice a drawing I made, post it on Instagram and my followers would tell them who the author was. Nowadays, I post about my newest ideas and experiments to show people what I’m currently working on, share with them the direction(s) my art is now taking. Because it keeps evolving!

Your chalk patterns are highly recognizable, how do you interact with passers-by?

I love it when people stop me and start asking questions about what I do. Sometimes, even policemen ask for my motivation or inspirations: it’s a way to communicate with my fellow Parisians, they can teach me things about the history of a particular street I am standing in, and I get to discuss about why I do what I do. Recently, because my TikTok videos have had more visibility, youngsters will come up to me and holla at me: I am thrilled to know that my drawings also appeal to teenagers!

How do you feel about the movement of street art and do you agree with exhibiting this form of art in galleries?

To be honest, I do not necessarily feel a part of the street art movement. A lot of what I do is related to street art, that’s true. But that’s not all I do, nor is it necessarily how I primarily see myself. My lines live extremely well in the city, but they can also be displayed on canvas… or on the Internet. I did have a few exhibitions of my work early on, not recently. Although I’m not opposed to it on principle, let’s just say it’s not the first thing that comes to my mind.

Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

That part I will leave to the viewer: my lines are entirely open to interpretation. What matters to me is that people feel connected through them: they effectively tie people together, people who see my drawings, make connections with other thoughts or ideas they might have, other art forms or activities. A little while ago, I collaborated with scientists who were trying to represent microbial life on earth and thought my lines fitted their research well. These are the types of connections I strive for.

Do you collaborate with others in the creation of your work?

My core work I do alone, but I also love collaborating with other artists and creators: the ouput then becomes something else, the result of two (or more) minds working together towards a common goal. A few years ago, I had the chance to collaborate with Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. More recently, I was involved with several pieces of Agnès b.’s collection, as well as her new Parisian art venue, La Fab. Also, I collaborated with several French charities, such as Les Restos du Coeur and Fondation Abbé Pierre. And I’m working on several other collaborations as we speak!

What is the ideal working environment for you?

Again, I would have to say ­— the street. I don’t mind being interrupted when I draw: on the contrary, it becomes a part of my experience. Same when I use whiting powder to draw on windows in the subway: what I do is an integral part of the life surrounding it. Which is why I quite like doing things “live”: recently, I went on stage with a French stand-up comedian. As he was performing, I was drawing on giant planks of wood that were then given to audience members in small pieces. Call it a meta-performance, if you will.

How important is others’ reaction to you and does that make you rethink the way you paint or change your theme-painting?

I believe outside reactions do have an impact on what I do. Granted, it will not change the fact that I will draw my lines, but the way I draw them will be affected. In effect, people interact with me provide the same sort of influence as the street I draw on itself, or the overall situation I find myself in. It becomes part of the overall experience, and therefore of my creative output.

What are the media youre currently using in order to paint?

Again, I do use paint brushes, but I wouldn’t say that they are my favorite utensil. I much prefer chalk, markers or whiting powder depending on the surface and what it calls for. I also draw a lot on my iPad, effectively creating virtual pieces. It doesn’t come with the same feeling than crafting something with your own two hands (or, rather, one hand for the most part) but it does come with a similar satisfaction when the work is complete.

What should be the role of artists in our society?

I am still trying to find that one out, to be honest. I am convinced that art is key to a well functioning society, because it helps its members “dream bigger”: art opens windows, fosters new ideas, creates new possibilities. I also believe that it can come with messages, be they explicit or not. I will let you find for yourself which are my messages.