Jouana Jasim On Finding Escapism

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Somewhere in between claustrophobic boredom and an underlying creative desire Jouana Jasim found art (or maybe art found her). The things we wholly and truly love often have a funny way of finding us. We may never know we need something, and then soon enough we can’t imagine life without it. Or maybe we have always known and spend every day working towards and desiring it. For Parisian native, Jouana, it was a little bit of both.

As a child, Jouana had nothing to do. “It [Villejuif, Paris] is one of the most boring places. And I spent my first years knowing nothing but this area”, she says. “I was trapped. No child should have to feel bored like that. I needed to find a solution”. And so, at five years old, she started drawing and painting. Jouana discovered the art of escapism.

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It was a cure for boredom, a preventative method for going “crazy”. It was not part of the plan, Jouana was supposed to become a doctor but things changed. Love got in the way. Now 23-years-old, Jouana’s first adulterous affair was with manga. She became so enamoured with the Japanese art form that she began imitating all the various styles she came across and liked: “CLAMP (XXX Holic, Tsubasa Sakura) , Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto) or Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball). I was so impressed by the quality”.

The second was with Valérie Berman, a professor at art school, Atelier de Sèvres, Paris. “She was erudite, elegant and eloquent. She helped me develop my own style”, Jouana explains. “For the first time in my life I was thinking about the notion of a concept; and that what I create has an explanation, a reason”. She was hooked and wanted to learn more about her craft. And so, following her studies in Paris, Jouana moved to Nice and attended Villa Arson, a fine art school. However, she felt uncomfortable there and she felt unsafe. She dropped out.

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Jouana’s third affair is less distinct, not as easily defined and cannot be assigned to one thing or person. It is her art, her Self, her journey, her processes…her creative life. She is now committed. And as with all relationships, this one was put to the test. “Shortly after [dropping out of Villa Arson] my mentor, Valérie Berman died and I started to question my personal artistic motive. I spent one year alone reading books. But, it was after reading a book of Nietzsche I decided to move my ass”, she says. “I went to a new art school, specialising in Graphic design and illustration, called EPSAA. It was a rebirth. I will graduate next year”.

Jouana’s work lives in the digital, even her paintings and physical pieces integrate digital manipulation and artificial surrealism. She lends her mind, hands and eye to many mediums, making them fit her own mould. Her style is distinct, for sure. And yet looking at her portfolio, it equally could be the work of several artists. Jouana has found her one love, but understands that it can still come in many forms.

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On process:

To me, video and paper are mediums that work better to tell a story. Photography and textiles express a feeling. I begin by researching and doing lots of sketches. Then, I usually use Photoshop, After effect, InDesign. I hate Illustrator. If a want to create something more physical, I choose embroidery threads, bought in Egypt. Or I use my coloured pencils or markers to draw; although, I draw less and less now.

On Instagram:

It is a unique art project. That’s why I share one type of work on it. We live in a society that is shaped by the human ego, and has been for a very long time. I find the way that humans are captivated by themselves fascinating. It is good to look at other people: famous people, socialites or digitally well-known people. It is often the best way to reassure us about our own egotistical behaviours. Yes, my account is composed of pictures and portraits of different people, but really, they’re all self-portraits. It is about me and the difficulty I have with assuming my egocentrism. I draw people I want to be like.

On meaning:

My work focuses on “self image”. It is the difficulty of managing: ‘what are we?’, ‘what do we want to be?’, ‘what do we want to show?’, ‘what should we be?’. These questions are universal. Although, I find, this is most true for women.

My parents grew up in patriarchal families in Iraq, where women didn’t work. Instead, they were expected to give birth and cook. Even though my parents let me live how I wanted, as a human and as a woman, I still felt oppressed. I was insecure, shy and I had an eating disorder when I was younger. I was always afraid to be imperfect. Creating is a way to free myself from these anxieties.

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On inspirations:

I love so many and too many things. But, if I feel queasy looking at something, I know it is a good piece of work. If I had to choose one artist, it would be Henry [Joseph] Darger. His work is so powerful. I am also impressed by the textile work of Erin M. Riley. And recently I discovered the work of Apollonia Saintclair on Instagram – it is great.

On the future:

I will exhibit my work during an annual exhibition of contemporary art this September. It will take place at Atelier Meraki. I’m also doing an art direction internship at a communications agency based in Paris. My goal is to be an art director, while still doing my own personal and creative work.

Words by Mollie Pyne.

All work featured by Jouana Jasim.

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