The art of Juli Jah stands out like a bird of paradise in the mass. Juliana Žamoit is a Lithuanian visual artist with a plethora of creative universes. Her drawings are infused with a touch of romanticism, which allows us to immerse ourselves into a marvelous world full of imageries. With a fine, mild touch she manages to radiate an intensive dynamic into her artwork, making it easy to get lost in it. Playful paintings of colorful birds, wild animals and hybrid creatures provide an insight on her childhood memories. However she also draws inspiration from urban life, where she seems to strive to capture an atmosphere rather than to create a precise depiction of a city, a natural world or people. Many recognize her art from her watercolour ink illustrations that are printed on various vinyl covers from labels such as Project London, Do Easy Records, Memoria, Hoxton, Birdsmakingmachine, Pluie/Noir Recordings and many more. She has build a solid partnership with labels like Berg Audio, Rowle and Subtil for which she been creating the artworks from the very beginning as well as taking care of all visual art management.
Her connection and love for music made us want to find more about her life evolving around art.
Let’s go way back and find out more about little Juliana. When did you realize that you were born with a talent? How was art taught in a Lithuanian school and did you enjoy it?
I didn’t realize anything, but my parents did. Little 3-year-old Juliana was drawing on the walls in her room, and she was a total nightmare for her mom’s garden; ripping off the flowers, collecting stones and feathers and building some kind of installations.
I am still wondering if I was sent to art school because of my “artistic talent”– I guess rather for being an anarchist in the house. I have one very old drawing that describes my inner world when I was 7. I am happy to share with you.
And to be honest, I didn’t enjoy art school at all the first time around. I was 6 or 7 years old and I was the youngest child there; my older classmates were bullying me, so I dropped out. But I was sent back one year later, and as I was already prepared and a bit more social by then, I didn’t have any issues and enjoyed studying fine arts.
What is your earliest memory of art? Is there any artist or person that influenced/inspired you the most?
All I can think of is Salvador Dali, actually. Maybe because he was one of my favourite artists when I was 8 or 9 years old. I don’t know why his art made such an impression on me. I suspect because it was surreal and weird, and I’ve liked surreal and strange things from an early age.
Picasso once said, „Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.“ Is this something you can relate to?
Picasso was right. I would also add that most children are empathetic, compassionate and honest human beings. These traits are way more important to keep once we grow up. But yeah, as soon as you grow up you might face more pressure and influence from the social, outer world and that can change your personality and your work.It is not necessarily wrong, though, it depends from which aspect you look at it.
You graduated from the Academy of Arts in Vilnius with a main focus on interior architecture. What were your expectations or dreams as an artist back then? Did any of your dreams become true?
Unfortunately those were not my dreams, this is the reason why I have never succeeded as an architect or interior designer. But studying at the interior architecture department taught me things like patience, and how to be very well organised when working on my projects. I also learned that creativity doesn’t come from the utopia called inspiration, but from the ability to force yourself to work on an art piece even when you think you are not able to. My studies felt like I ended up in the army. I was spending endless hours in our academy, drawing, working on big projects. But I guess that things that happened back then or generally that happened in my life were not happening with me but for me. I have learned how to take care of the details and that, in my opinion, you can also see in my drawings.
When did you realize you wanted to move to Berlin? Could you live here forever?
l fell in love with Berlin when I hitchhiked to see this city for the first time, back in 2009. It’s not easy to say if I could live here forever. I have lived in Friedrichshain since 2013, and although I like it here I might escape to a place where there is more nature.
I cannot say if it will be in Berlin, Germany or Europe in general. Time will show. Considering the current situation, you cannot really plan further than a few weeks ahead.
Tell us a little more about your love of music in general. When and where did it start? What was the first event and vinyl cover you drew?
Music is always with me. Either while I am working, cooking, riding my bike or walking on the streets of Berlin; I am listening to music that is created by humans. I don’t listen to this kind of music when I am in the forest, for example. I like sounds, in general. The sound of the fields or forest – if that can be called “music” – then I fell in love with music very early, as I grew up almost living in the woods.
The first record artwork commission I got from a friend of a friend, 8 years ago if my Maths were correct. To put it quite simply, I was broke and my friend let me know that there was someone looking for an artist to produce the artwork for his label and I did it. It was done for the Do Easy record label from Vienna. And when it comes to flyers – I did my first flyers for techno events in Lithuania back in 2007 or 2008.
What is your favourite club in Berlin and why?
Obviously, it’s Club der Visionäre, because of the great bookings and all the “community, friends getting together” kinda thing. I used to go to Panorama Bar every first Friday of the month for the Perlon party, too. Again – dope music, those parties were legendary since I moved to Berlin. I miss that.
What is your opinion on the artistic scene in Berlin? Do you have a favourite museum here? A place where you like to go and get inspired?
Berlin has a huge artistic scene, as we have many broke artists living here, and that’s what makes the capital so special. I like Boros Collection, simply because it is a quite interesting feeling to end up in a bunker, completely isolated, exploring art. I really love installations that pop up in different Berlin galleries, or public places. Let’s not forget about the beautiful graffiti mural art scene that developed in Berlin.
Could you tell us a little bit about your creative process? What is your starting point when you begin a project?
It depends what kind of project it is, but most of the time I am sketching to have an idea of what to do next. Doesn’t matter if it’s personal or commissioned work.
If I am working on a project for other people, of course there are feedback rounds, sometimes there is none as I get the possibility of creative control. But to be perfectly frank, I prefer to do everything in one go. I hate drawing the same thing twice, even though the results can be just great.
Perhaps one of the most interesting factors in your work is that the mood is not always necessarily a happy one. The audience can feel a range of emotions from delight to melancholy, sometimes in one picture. So what is it that reflects mostly in your art?
I am happy to leave this to my audience, people that look into my work. It would be unnecessary to tell someone ‘Hey, I made this piece while I was mega depressed or extremely happy, can you feel that?’. I let people feel how they want, or need to feel.
If there are social issues that I am trying to bring up, I do expect that these illustrations should make people feel the way I want them to feel, or at least understand what kind of issues I want to bring on the table.
Currently the world is on hold as the Coronavirus is spreading rapidly. How does the virus affect you, your art and your creativity?
I came back from Asia a couple of days before the lockdown. So, it wasn’t a big deal to stay cozy in my world, working on illustrations and projects that were postponed due to my travels. Of course, it’s a massive contrast, when I spent two months living a free bird life in nature exploring things, and then ending up staying in my apartment 24/7 because the government told everyone to do so. Let’s say I have nothing to complain about. As you kind of feel privileged having food, a warm place to stay; how simple, isn’t it? You might feel scared, even guilty, look around, read this and that and then stay at home; half believing, half suspicious.
I do believe that we have to take care of our health, our immune system, take a look at our diet and daily habits. We have to take care of the others, too. But hello, this has to be all the time, not only when a flu hits the world. I would lie if I say that a total lockdown was necessary. Of course, it is always easier to not make much research, clap on the balcony like a monkey, obey and don’t question anything; start today and continue forever.
In any way back to your question, the first two weeks I was painting like a crazy person that finally got access to all tools that were not available while being on the road. Third and fourth week it was harder to concentrate on my work, but it has nothing to do with corona. So I started to beautify my apartment which is good, as I was planning to do it forever. Now, I am sure that it’s time to get out and continue living your life. Mindfully.
And generally, are there any particular reforms that you’d like to see – socially, politically, economically, or otherwise?
Considering the current, bizarre situation I am really curious what kind of reforms are waiting for us. There is a quote that suits pretty well, it says: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”. Like it or not, there will be many changes, so get out your popcorn and enjoy the ride.
Honestly, we all have to unite and work with Mother Nature, because going against her won’t bring us any further. Many people simply don’t understand that, or will understand that too late. I strongly believe that humanity must work on spirituality, emotional intelligence, too.
Everyone got their personal chaos to handle, I am dealing recently with mine. In the end, you need a bit of madness to get you going forward.
Last but not least: What does art and music mean to you?
It means a lot, as I find both things a beautiful gift that I appreciate and treasure very much.