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Artist  |  Paris


As one of the rising stars of the international art world, the brilliant French artist Julien Marinetti is pushing the boundaries with his unique style of sculpture and painting called 'syncretism'.


We were waiting for Julien to arrive at his atelier, hidden away in a peaceful suburb in the outskirts of Paris, when the first thing we heard was the roar of his white Porsche 911 Carrera pulling into the driveway, closely followed by his passionate, highly astute and brutally honest observations of the world. Meet the remarkable Julien Marinetti: the artist, the painter, the sculptor, the historian, the athlete, the entertainer and all-round French charmeur

His lifelike “Doggy John” sculptures brought him international recognition over the last decade, melding sculpture and painting into a new form he described as 'syncretism'. He has created and sold an astounding 3,500 unique paintings and sculptures to international collectors over the last ten years alone. Described as “violent, funny or mysterious, and always unsettling”, his works are rarely re-sold at auctions, as collectors form an emotional bond with his lifelike artworks. 

Born in Paris in 1967, Julien Marinetti held an early fascination with distorting everyday objects into polychromatic sculptures, and completed his first oil painting when he was only four years old. Raised in a creative household, he was inspired by the works of the great Masters such as Picasso, and was a prolific artist during his youth. He studied academic drawing and sculpture at the Ateliers de la Grande Chaumière, and spent only one day at the Beaux-Arts (French Academy of Fine Arts) before deciding to leave to devote himself to art on his own terms. 

Fascinated with Neo-Expressionism painting and sculpture, he experimented by combining the two art forms in 2004 when he created his first masterpiece, “Doggy John”, a three-dimensional art work cast in bronze, which was inspired by one of his early paintings of his neighbour’s French bulldog. An instant hit, his “Doggy John” collection has projected him to international recognition over the subsequent decade. Also an accomplished painter, he has been invited to present his art works in all corners of the world, at prestigious venues such as the Grand Palais and the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Paris, the Park Lane and Hyde Park in London, the New York Stock Exchange in New York, and in many locations in Singapore and China. 

Claiming that he never stops working for fear of losing his momentum and “creative tension”, you’ll rarely find him outside of his studio located in Ivry-sur-Seine. This soaring, warehouse-like space is brimming with his early and recent works, along with a myriad of curious objects such as an elephant’s skull, paint-splattered retro roller skates, primitive wooden totems and two stalking panther-like cats, which mirror the intensity of their master. 


While his heart may be deeply welded to the world of art, he has many more strings to his bow. Bursting with energy despite the fact he sleeps only a few hours each night, he’s also a black belt karate champion, a former male model, holds a seriously enviable IQ and knowledge of history, and a razor-sharp sense of humour. Life is certainly never dull when you’re in the company of Julien Marinetti. 

RV: How would you describe yourself as an artist?
JM:  I am neither a painter nor a sculptor, but rather both at the same time. I resort to a form of perpetual syncretism. The language of sculpture is certainly more direct than that of painting. It is also simpler to interpret. With sculpture, the artist has the advantage, the privilege, of being able to move around his work as he creates it. For a period, Picasso worked this way when painting sculptural subjects. He started out making sculptures and ended up painting. A similar sort of equation applies to my work. Constructing a painting also necessitates an architecture, a composition that seeks to make the eye believe that it is not looking at a flat space but a three-dimensional space. Now, when I relocate this composition, not in a two-dimensional context as usual, say to the rectangle of the canvas, but in a space that is genuinely three-dimensional, that of sculpture, I create what I call ‘a type of fourth dimension’, which is a manifestation of this famous idea of syncretism of art. In other words: the fusion of painting and sculpture. By painting on a dog or a panda, I am executing a picture that you can touch, interpret with your eyes and hands. For me, painting that is inserted into sculpture is like a heart that has been implanted within it – it lives and beats. 

RV: Describe “a day in the life of Julien Marinetti”?
JM: I have to work, to practise, to train all the time in order to progress. I can't do the same thing every day like making the same cake in the same mould. Imagine – I have sold around 3,500 pieces in 10 years, both sculptures and paintings. It’s enormous, absolutely enormous. This may be the largest amount of unique pieces sold by an artist in 10 years. Only 14 of my pieces have ever been re-sold at auction houses such as Christie's, Artcurial or Sotheby's. Fourteen pieces! It means that everyone wants to keep his Marinetti. It is unbelievable. An artist such as Leonardo Da Vinci was dying, dying painting. I'm sure that a real artist has to die in his studio with the brush in hand. I love to work. For me it is like drinking water. I absolutely have to work. I never go on holidays. For me, my holiday is being in my studio. I will only be proud of my work at the end of my life.

RV: How would you describe your creative process?
JM: I am guided by passion. I do not instinctively make exact reproductions. Above all, I work quickly, as if it were my last work. By not planning in advance what I want to produce, I give myself up to the canvas, to the colours, without preconceptions, without preconceived ideas. Once again, I work in an entirely unconscious state, in a frenzy; I never try to predict how things will turn out. The eye interacts with form, the path emerges of its own accord, dare I say it. And yet I know perfectly well that my work fulfils the requirements of composition, that I have thought out such and such a surface, such and such a brushstroke … My approach is like that of a chess player who plays with his back turned to the chessboard. Creative equilibrium depends on paradoxical proximity to the work. In reality, the only worthwhile battle is the everyday one. It consists of getting up, renewing the desire, varying the rhythms, finding the spontaneity of one’s work again, going beyond habits. An artist only acquires credibility over time. 

RV: Who are your major influences?
JM: Picasso is a sort of master for me. Picasso had the art and style to make people believe in his talent. And moreover, it was also his genius. I also have combined influences and different forms derived from Cubism, Figuration Libre, New Expressionism and even Action Painting. My way of working is very classical and tribal. 

RV: Is it true that you only sleep a few hours each night?
JM: In fact, I sleep between two or three hours each night, no more. You need to have a lot of energy as an artist because energy is like a form of compression. If you have no compression in your body or in your mind, you can't reject things. 

RV: How did you come to start painting on the sculptural form of animals, such as a dog, a teddy bear, a panda, and more recently, a penguin?
JM: By chance, I painted the head of a bulldog, a neighbour’s dog. It was my first sculpture. Very quickly, around thirty monochrome dogs emerged, which were bought by collectors within a week, in a flash. My sculpture took shape without any warning. It suddenly came into existence. Why? How? I have no idea. It happened just like that. Subsequently, I applied collages to my Doggy John, and these could be seen as tributes to American art and its cult artists. Rauschenberg, Haring, Lichtenstein and even Warhol. I discovered that you could use a three-dimensional support for painting. Since 2006, I have treated bronze like a separate support-surface. Modelled in clay, then cast in bronze, my sculptures were then enriched with new forms on which I apply expressionist and neo-cubist motifs in acrylic by hand. These forms provide unexpected supports that enable me to explore and channel my creative energy. I have always done self-portraits. In my canvases, I can see my gaze, my mouth, my feet, my back and lots of other parts of my body. 

Interview: Enrique Nalda & Kimberley McLoughlin
Photography: Courtesy of Julien Marinetti

Interview first published in RedVisitor Magazine: Issue Two - Purchase Now

M O R E   I N T E R V I E W S  . . .