Juliette Green: How does it feel to create something?

artwork Juliette Green
what do people smell like, drawing by Juliette Geeen
discovery of Juliette Green's drawing work

Juliette Green is a young French visual artist, based at JAD since April 2023 as part of a creative residency run in partnership with Salon de Montrouge and the Hauts-de-Seine department.

As a teenager, Juliette Green developed a method of taking notes at school by mixing text and drawings. She now uses it to tell stories in her works. Today, the visual artist turns to JAD to tell us her story, past and present.

Juliette, your entire artistic universe is based on a unique creative system. Would you care to start by telling us about it?

My practice is halfway between writing and drawing. The works I create tell stories that can be read by following a system of arrows. These stories are usually inspired by an existential question, which is written large on the work and serves as its title. In addition to these texts, there are many visual elements: sketches, characters, pictograms, architectural plans, maps, and so on.

You developed this process early on in your school career. How did what started out as a working methodology become the central creative process of your art?

Indeed, it was at school that everything took shape. I read an advice book on how to improve your school learning methods. The author recommended adding drawing elements to the notes you take in class to facilitate memorization. I applied this advice from the very first course I took in high school. It wasn't possible before because the teaching staff didn't have the same expectations.

Juliette Green Personal Archives

In college, we had to follow more standardized layout instructions: write on sheets with lines, underline each heading, use a certain color for exercises, write down the course outline to the letter, etc. I was able to develop my own system of note-taking once we had more freedom. I was able to develop my own note-taking system once we had more freedom. Later, this work evolved: I went to art school and took a narrative turn. The texts from which I drew became narratives.

All your drawings have a story of their own. In particular, there are these phrases and questions that guide the reading. Your drawings are sometimes described as "semantic trees". How do you work with words in the visual architectures you create?

Some people talk about semantic trees, mind maps, schemas, diagrams... There are many names for these visual forms that are all around us. Normally, they have a utilitarian function: they provide information.

Using them to tell stories is unusual, but as we often encounter structures of this type in everyday life, we instinctively know how to approach them. Their appearance is familiar. We know how they work and how to read them.

How did you come to allow yourself more room for drawing? 

Its quantity varies from project to project: for some works, I like the drawing to be predominant, and for others, I prefer the text. However, I'm much less interested in them on their own: doing a writing project without any visual elements (for example, writing a book) is not my vocation. Nor do drawings without text appeal to me. Maybe I'll change my point of view over time. I'm not against it, but for the time being, I feel I belong somewhere between these two means of expression.

The biggest The smallest, drawing by Juliette Green
How do our beliefs influence our daily life? Drawing Juliette Green

You've also turned to performance art, collecting words from the public to make live creations. The end result is always so meticulous. I'm thinking in particular of the work you created in an hour during the JAD meeting in May with designer Tony Jouanneau. How does the creative process work in this context?

Orality has been part of my work for years. When I was taking notes in class, all the texts were those spoken by my teachers. I lost this link with the spoken word when I went to art school: I started inventing the texts of my works myself, without relying on what I heard. It was after my studies that I got back in touch with sound.

An exhibition curator invited me to draw live at the Palais de Tokyo during a lecture series. My automatic note-taking skills came back thanks to this project. I rediscovered the pleasure I'd felt when transcribing other people's words into diagrams. That's exactly what happened during the meeting with Tony Jouanneau: it was fun to listen to him talk about his business and his projects, and then transform his words into a visual form. This exercise demands extreme concentration and attention.

You'd already taken part in a number of residencies in the past. When you arrived at JAD last April, what was your project? How do you create a work in just a few months, based on a place and a story?

When I arrived at JAD, I knew it would take me some time to adapt, as I usually work in the contemporary art world. Design and arts and crafts were not worlds with which I was very familiar. So the first phase was to familiarize myself with these professions by listening to people talk about them, in dedicated or informal moments.

I asked the JAD creators a lot of questions about their backgrounds, their career choices, their working and organizational methods, their projects. I took notes. I visited their workshops and the JAD exhibitions, took part in events and then discovered the surrounding area, especially the nearby museum. I learned about the building's history from the mediation team, who offered guided tours. I also talked to the people who run the place, to find out what's at stake and how it's positioned. These were important moments for understanding the context of the residency.

At JAD, it's in Atelier 108 that everything happens, and in a very confidential way. I'm curious to know what questions and major themes have guided your work since your arrival last April.

I thought long and hard about my final project because I wanted it to be accessible: I wanted it to be understandable to people who weren't specialists in design or crafts. This was essential to me, as the JAD is attended by a very diverse public, both professional and non-professional. Ultimately, I chose to focus on what it feels like to create something. Everyone has experienced creation. It's a situation that every human being experiences at least occasionally, whether at work, at school or in their private life.

How has your daily life in this place of creation, transmission and production, and your encounters and exchanges with JAD's craftsmen and designers shaped your creations?

Juliette Green notebooks

These few months in contact with the people who work at JAD have given me more insight into what drives them to create, because we've talked about it a lot amongst ourselves. Creation is a rather mysterious and intimate activity. I was wondering how to talk about it to the public, how to describe what happens at that moment. I'd like readers to be able to step into the shoes of those who are constantly creating, as is the case at JAD.

It's not always easy to put it into words. It seems to me that there's still a lot of idealization of the creative professions, especially design and arts and crafts. In practice, it's more nuanced: everyone I spoke to at JAD described moments of intense joy and passion, but also of stress and doubt. This is inherent in the creative process, and despite the obstacles, the desire to continue never leaves them. I'd like the final work to reflect these realities. I think it's important to show them clearly and to put them on the same level.

You belong to the world of visual arts and contemporary art, and for JAD it was interesting to be able to cross disciplines and viewpoints. How did 3 months at JAD, immersed in the world of craft and design, put the medium you work in back into perspective? Did this residency give rise to a desire to collaborate and experiment?

The way we talk about our activities varies according to the milieu: in the art and design professions, there are issues that don't exist in the contemporary art world. I'm thinking in particular of the notion of functionality, which is at the heart of JAD's reflections and to which I was a relative stranger before. Listening to long conversations on this subject was fascinating. I've also developed a greater awareness of materials thanks to my discussions with the people who work here: wood, leather, textiles, innovative materials and so on.

For my part, I've been experimenting with the machines made available to us by JAD, to transpose drawings onto tiles that will be incorporated into my final project. The principle is simple: scan a hand-drawn design, set up the machine and watch it reproduce the initial shape on the chosen support. A number of technical issues arise depending on the materials used. With earthenware tiles, we had some surprises. We had to make several trials with different settings to obtain the desired result. When the parameters aren't right, the lines are blurred. This is a problem for my work, because when the machine reproduces text, you have to make sure that it remains legible. I'd like to explore this further in the future. It's an exercise in patience and intuition.

Interview by Clara Chevrier
Head of Audiences and Mediation