Julien Vinet lives and works in Valletta, he is a cartoonist, graphic designer, and painter. Raised in France, then 7 years in Japan, Julien’s past experiences are quite unaccustomed to the Maltese way of life. Still, interviewing an artist is always unpredictable, you are not to know what state of mind they will be in. I managed to speak to Julien, whilst he occupied something approaching a near perfect state of mind.
As soon as I arrived at his apartment I realised two things. The first that he was a modest man and second that he truly had great light for painting in his studio. Light is one of those things Julien gets particular about, without good light his art is affected, he spent over three months hunting this place down and it is easy to see why. Light floods through the whole apartment and his studio, whilst small, is washed up and illuminated by the suns glow. He is pleased about this for obvious reasons.
Julien showed me his roof terrace. A grand view of the harbour and the three cities. Having such a beautiful landscape usually prompts people to paint and draw it but noticeably Vinet hasn’t. I asked him why he wouldn’t paint such a scene, he shrugged of the idea as if it weren’t worth a moments thought and he told me that a painting is no replacement for the real thing. At any rate, it was decided that the interview should take place on his terrace. The interview focused on Vinet’s experiences, how his style has been shaped and how does he now respond to the social situations that are around him.
After the interview a few things began to happen, we went to a painting exhibition by a local artist, it was a collection of photo-real landscapes of Malta. I imagine that many contemporary artists would feel the same, he was distraught and dismayed. I didn’t need to ask why, whilst the painter we saw was clearly very talented, he was very much the equivalent of a Japanese craftsman for Vinet. His statement that the Japanese don’t have artists, they only have craftsmen, had a parallel running in Malta.
Having worked with narrative and figurative work himself that exhibition was no enigma to him, he knew exactly what it was that he was looking at and he didn’t like it. Perhaps this is expressed in his own work that has began to turn towards the abstract. Vinet talks about the, “few who have the ability to do it”, and he means those who can touch people’s souls with their art. “The only point [of art] is to touch people.” This is said in reference almost exclusively to abstract and expressionist painters, but I feel that in spite of the theme of our conversation, he has much broader appreciation. This leads him further, artwork that inspires feeling is the most effective, to “work without meaning” to create emotion or empathy, this what he works for. He has great admiration for painters who strove to such ends.
Vinet’s opinion on Malta’s art scene is mixed, I can tell this from the mixed arguments that he poses in criticism and then in defence of it. Such a stance is not new though, I have seen a number of people here with the same mixed view. Some things are great here, other things are just bad. Still, Vinet has aspirations to change the way that things are done, he has ideas and believes in the greater ability of the Maltese people to capacitate for such a change.
Vinet has been living in Malta for one and a half years and is typically exhibiting abroad due to the higher interest and appreciation that he gets. It is likely that an exhibition will take place in Malta but competition for his work from mainland Europe will limit the chances of a solo exhibition taking place soon. Still, we must see what the future will bring.