Usually, street artists would choose an abandoned building, old train tracks or bridges to display their masterpieces, but Dutch street artist, Jan Is De Man
has gone with an unconventional route by enacting his lively works where communities want to connect.
His aim is quite clear – ‘where everyone can identify themselves’ by asking for the involvement of the residents’ who commission him.
Jan’s most recent gift to a neighborhood has come in the form of a whimsical tri-level trompe l’oeil mural bookcase on an apartment building in Utrecht, Netherlands.
, a fellow street artist aided Jan on his project, one of many collaborations between the two, being co-owners of a tattoo shop named “Blackbook Tattoos
” centered in Utrecht.
The location for the mural came before the concept said Jan Is De Man, “I know the people who live on the ground floor very well. They’ve wanted a mural by my hand for a while. They also wanted to let me feel free in my design as long as it would bring something positive to their neighborhood. The first idea was to paint a smiley. A very big smiley. Because I believe people become more happy when they see a smiley every day. But this idea didn’t feel complete, it felt too simple.”
After studying his canvas he came up with the idea for an l’oeil mural – “visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object.” He said, “I studied the shape of the house and the location where this house stands in and suddenly the idea of making a huge bookcase hit me. I love making illusions on walls and I like to see smiles on people’s faces and this idea (I thought meanwhile) could bring all this together.”
Part of the concept was to involve the residents’ in the artistic process, “We entered the community by asking people for their favorite books and we were able to put 8 languages and cultures together in the same concept. Everybody, every age, every culture, every language was welcome. The only rule I set up to participate in this art project was: no political books and no religious books. Besides that every book title was welcome.”
Jan and Deef Feed spent a week, grinding away full-time to make the idea a reality from paper to wall on the apartment building. The most difficult part according to him being the intital concept planning, “think most of the time the most difficult is to get the right concept, that fits the wall, that fits the neighborhood. but when you got the right idea, then there is not much difficult.”
Managing to capture the spirit of the residents and the artists with an array of favorite books, when asked about his favorite titles, Jan responded ”I am really fond of “ the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime“ written by Mark Haddon And of course the Playboy.”
Since unveiled, the mural has not only become an artistic source, bringing neighbors together, but an attraction, stopping visitors in their tracks to take literal selfies with the famous work. “The neighborhood where this work was made is filled with different cultures. And I’ve noticed that this project brought (and hopefully for as long as it lasts) people together without pushing it. They meet each other through books. Regardless of the differences in cultures, regardless of the differences in political point of views. Regardless of being extreme right or extreme left.”
So what’s in the works for this awe inspiring muralist? “There is a lot of things coming, but I don’t like to tell plans, because I believe that if you tell your plans they don’t work. It sounds corny, but in the end, actions speak louder than words.” Well I for one can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!
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