When Art meets Science

Jurne lives and works in Oakland, California. He works finding a balance between commercial projects, fine art and doing graffiti. Much of his work draws from his background as a Graffiti artist.

We met him earlier in 2013 on his trip through Europe and invited him to stay with us. On his way to his exhibition in Warsaw he stopped by in Berlin to create an art edition with DRAW A LINE. Jurne, who is a trained biologist, shared his views on art in general and how his work as a scientist influenced his approach to art.

Port of Oakland

You seem to bring two totally different backgrounds with you. On the one hand you are an artist, on the other hand you are a trained biologist. You left the world of science and decided to focus on art. What is the reason for that?

I couldn't dedicate the same amount of time to each. The next step in my science career would have been getting a Phd, which is, you are not doing anything else during that. I felt privileged to have opportunities to travel and create art and write Graffiti.

I didn’t want to come to some epiphany in ten years: “ah man I really made a bad decision - I could have lived this creative life and instead I was slaving away in a laboratory.”

There is a huge difference in technique between scientific research and doing art. With science everything is premeditated. You go into the lab, you develop a plan and you execute the plan. Maybe you have some findings and those inform your next decisions with the research, and you slightly modify the experiment and then you repeat it, and repeat, repeat, repeat...

“There is a huge difference in technique between scientific research and doing art.”

With art I feel, it is responding to the moment: you have an idea and you make a mark and you have all this new feedback. Now you want to make new decisions. It’s about making a decision in the moment. You can’t change the course of action with science, but with art you can do whatever you want. Actually I’m not gonna make it red I gonna make it blue. It’s completely different.

However, I feel like in a lot of ways science influenced the way that I focus on doing things or working at a certain scale.

To many Europeans, your style looks very American. Do you agree?

It’s funny to hear from you that it looks so American. I grew up in the North East, my influences are from that area, mainly Boston. They have a really strong history with handstyles and just simple American Graffiti letters.

But I was schooled in high school by this writer from Bratislava. So there was a little bit of a European reinterpretation of New York City Graffiti. And a lot of people noticed a few years ago I was being inspired by what was done in Amsterdam, Paris and Great Britain in the eighties, with the Chrome Angeles and Crime Time Kings and stuff like that. I draw inspiration from american graffiti, european graffiti, basically just stuff that I like from the 80s and 90s. So it’s a really a mix of things.

“You can’t change the course of action with science, but with art you can do whatever you want.”
DIVERSION at 1AM Gallery in San Francisco

You grew up in the North East and later moved to California. Did that do anything to your style?

The most important aspect of living in the Bay Area for me’s been the ability to paint so much: there are so many places in the States now where there is hyper vigilant police and security and also really strong buffing from the city. The Bay is one of the few places that’s retained a bit of the history still on the walls. It’s a really special place to be painting, because the history of Graffiti is much more evident here. So the more you see and practice a craft, the more you grow as an artist.

You’re really into tagging. It seems that you have a certain approach to it. What’s behind it?

When you’re making a tag, when you’re taking a tag, the first mark sets the pace for everything else. And you’re balancing the following marks with the first mark. You draw a line - everything is balancing or rescuing it, cause you’re creating imbalance, you know. The same thing translates into making artwork. You have an idea in your head. Once you actualise it, it’s a bit of a distortion from what you intended. All of what I’m doing after making the first mark is kind of resuscitating the whole piece. It's almost like you screwed it up when you started it and then you have to keep making balancing decisions until it’s OK in the end. That's how I feel often.

The message of the print that I made with DRAW A LINE embodies that idea of rescuing the first mark. The process of creating work, making art, is embodied in the message, the actual words of the print. They are like echoing each other.

“When you’re taking a tag, the first mark sets the pace for everything else.”

You’re doing non-profit Graffiti workshops for kids. Do you describe yourself as a socially or politically active person?

Man your question makes me wish I was more so. It’s wonderful to run workshops with kids, because their energy and their kind of creative vision is totally different from adults. Kids kind of have no rules yet in their head. Often I create murals with children that are commemorating or telling a story about the community that the kids live in or a historical event that happened in the place where the mural was created. But the most important thing that the workshops allow for is that the kids become history makers themselves. They’re bringing the history back to the present. And they can take people to the murals and can tell them ‘I made this’. It empowers young kids in a way.

I think it’s always easy to romanticize the past, but it seems there was more politically charged and more socially-aware Graffiti being done in America in the eighties. It’s more rare nowadays. The real true power of doing Graffiti is that you can say whatever you want.

Interview by Nils Altland

Get the art edition

Jurne "Counter Balance"