Olivier Jamin is a French-born contemporary artist who has been deaf since birth. Now living in the UK, he specialises in hand-drawn multicoloured art and also creates stencil graffiti arts.
As he tells ART BLOG below, the aim is to produce visually striking work and raise awareness of deafness and disability…
Tell us about how you came to be an artist?
From a very young age my parents would give me pen and paper, and I would just sit and draw. It became part of my personality, to have a pen in my hand and draw. I have not lost that passion for art, and have a pen in my hand most days, making new art.
As a Deaf artist it was difficult for me to find work. I did not give up on my art as many of my peers did. Instead, I continued to create art and my passion and determination to continue to do this has brought me to where I am today; a freelance artist working full time on various projects.
Who are your chief influences?
If I had to pin it down to one or two I would say Gaudi, for his bold use of colour and design and Van Gogh, for his vivid use of colour too.
With regard to deaf and disabled artists; Chuck Baird, an American artist. I did not meet him personally, but got the chance to see his work. Apart from this, I would have to say there is no one else around who really ‘blows my socks off’.
There are fantastic deaf and disabled artists out there…
You work a lot with stencilling, digital art and graffiti – are you drawn to the urban in your work?
I am drawn to a more urban style which allows me explore cities and buildings. Then, with my use of line and stencil drawings, I can create simple artwork from straight lines and shapes seen in urban areas. I also like to use Divisionism.
I recently attended the ‘City of Colours’ event in Birmingham which was really inspiring, seeing the street art that was being created, and the public engaging with it. Street art isn’t something I create myself, but it influences my own creativity.
My style and preferences are regularly changing and I enjoy creating new pieces with a mix of influences and media, such as blending my photography with line drawings and so on.
How do your travels influence your art?
Seeing a place in a book or on TV does not allow you to absorb the surroundings, the sights, the perspectives or colours. Actually being somewhere new and seeing it with your own eyes brings a whole new meaning to it.
I recently visited Malta and created some artwork whilst I was there. I was able to incorporate my new surroundings into the look and feel of my work, which I later gifted to a hotel on the island.
I do not like to get caught up in the usual ‘tourist traps’ when visiting somewhere new, and instead like to capture the real culture, colours, landscape and people. By doing this I am able to use these very real influences to create new art. I can also use these influences and memories when recreating older ideas in new and interesting ways.
What are the main frustrations of being an artist with a disability?
In terms of being an artist, and making artwork, my Deafness does not cause me any issues or frustrations. However, the business of being a freelance artist can raise challenges when it comes to communication.
Thanks to Access to Work I am able to use BSL interpreters to make contact with galleries and other organisations, and for any meetings that I may need to attend. Interpreters are there to facilitate communication between non-deaf/disabled partners and deaf partners who use British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate. This ensures we are all on a ‘level playing field’ when meeting, communicating and engaging in business with each other.
Unfortunately, not everyone is ‘Deaf Aware’. Another strand of my business is offering Deaf awareness advice when communicating with Deaf BSL users.
Being Deaf does not stop me from doing anything, and although I face communication issues, it is nothing that cannot be overcome with proper awareness and support.
Is art important in communicating deafness?
I have some pieces that show what it is like to be Deaf; however, not all my work focuses on the Deaf experience. Other work I create embodies my passion for colour, texture, patterns and nature, as well as recreating the experiences I have had when travelling and being inspired by life in general and the many themes that co-exist.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have just finished a series of hand drawn pieces. These were all created on card with Posca pens. Some were also recorded to show the art actually being created via ‘time-lapse’.
Alright Bab? is a phrase unique to the people of Birmingham. Though not Birmingham born myself, I feel I have a connection to the city and the people, having lived here. It is a fun piece which makes people smile when they see it.
What advice do you have for artists with a disability?
Don’t spend your life waiting for opportunities to come to you. It may be more of a struggle, but get out of the house, meet people, and make things happen for you.
You can view Olivier’s work at the following venues:
Solo exhibition, until September 2: Community Hub, 4th Floor John Lewis, Leeds. Free entry when the room is not booked. The work is for sale after 2nd September.
Solo exhibition, until October 2: management suite, Highcross Leicester. Artwork is for sale during exhibition
Art stall, 30 June: Moseley Arts Market, 9am to 3pm. Opportunity to buy artwork and small items at this popular fair.
Solo exhibition, 3 July to 31 January 2019: Highbury Hall, Birmingham. Free entry but please contact Highbury Hall for availability to allow entrance to the building. Opportunity to buy anytime during the exhibition.