Jean Labourdette’s (a.k.a Turf One) work is magical, unsettling and mysterious, and we’ve been after the man to find out more about him and his wonderful world of disconcerting midgets, pretty animals, and odd skulls.
One of the things Jean showed us was his own personal curiosity cabinet, which is appropriately filled with all sorts of strange and wonderful things. Delightfully, Jean also told us that he makes good use of his cabinet in his own artwork. It’s true – you’ll find a charming assortment of decapitated doll heads and grinning skulls and miscellaneous bits of natural history ephemera in Jean Labourdette’s works, and the art world is better off for it.
Turf One’s personal Cabinet of Curiosities
As he says – “I have been picking and collecting objects that i find inspiring for a little over ten years with the idea of putting together several curiosity cabinets. Those cabinets end up being sort of an extension of my subconscious, they are filled with symbols that fascinate me and that I use over and over in my paintings… Actually, I have always been fascinated by objects that have a soul and a history of their own… As a child I used to go every week-ends to flee markets in the Paris area with my dad, and later on, as a graffiti artist, I got in to the habit of bringing home objects from the abandoned places I used to “visit”… So really, this habit of collecting stuff has been going on for quite some time already…”
Here’s a little treasure hunt for Circus Posterus fan – look through Jean’s gallery (sometimes NSFW), find a piece of work of his that uses something in his cabinet for reference, and post it in our forum thread about the show. I’ll personally mail you a postcard from Jean’s opening in September if you do, and we’ll throw some extra Stranger Factory treats in as well!
We’ve provided some examples throughout the article, but you should find some for yourself – the trip through Jean’s galleries is absolutely worth it.
Abandoned Shrine, 2010
We also got a chance to talk to Jean about his graffiti work, his ventures into the Paris Catacombs, and some other miscellaneous questions we had on our mind, which he very graciously answered.
Tell us about your favourite adventure in the Paris Catacombs!
It was all such a great and life-changing experience! Going down there is like getting lost into your own subconscious and traveling back in time into the memory of the city of Paris at the same time…
Some of my favorite moments were going down to the ossuaries and having to crawl in a tunnel filled almost up to the ceiling with human bones, going through some tunnels filled with water, discovering some charcoal graffiti from before the French Revolution…
(ed. note: Jean and filmmaker Marielle Quesney spent four years following graffiti writer Psyckoze through the Paris Catacombs for their 2006 documentary Dead Space. For more, read this fascinating interview at XLR8R here.)
The graffiti work I’ve seen from you is fascinating – can you tell us more about your early life as an artist?
I have always liked to draw and paint. My father was an artist, so that was a normal thing for me to do since a very early age. I got into doing graffiti when I was around 12, at the end of the 80’s. Graffiti ended up being my art school and my passion for a good 15 years. It also got me into making comics, illustrations, and eventually working as a painter…it was all an evolution that came from Graffiti and the influence of my father as well.
You’ve played in so many art fields…graffiti, film, comics – what’s your favourite? Where do you see yourself evolving to in the next ten years?
They were all my favorite at one point in time along my artistic path and evolution. For me, it’s about Creation rather than mediums or fields. As long as you manage to express your creativity through a specific medium, as long as it challenges you, it is great…and when it starts to run dry, it is time to move on to a new one.
But I would say that the most constant mode of expression for me since I was a child, that never bored me or limited me, is painting.
The Messenger, 2005. The skull and altar should look familiar.