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Jan Melka tried her hand at self-portrait for i-D and Boucheron

Presented by
UK Boucheron x i-D

i-D and Boucheron asked four artists to take a self portrait.

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Painters, poets and sculptors, Inès, Bianca, Apolonia and Jan create vivid pictures of life as artists in 2017.

Jan Melka’s drawings reject the notion of perfection: putting her obsessive thoughts on paper she embraces her errors and reveals a sensuality to her mark-making. The French-American artist, who studied graphic arts, takes time from preparing for an upcoming show to engage with a self-portrait exercise.

How would you define the way you work.

The way I work is very intuitive and spontaneous, what I create is directly born out of what I experience. My work includes diary entries, collages and drawings, my sketches are rough and naive -- this aesthetic comes from the urgent need I have to create. I am fast and to the point. I want to be straightforward so I accept my mistakes, however unconscious they may be. I leave and embrace any error I make. I correct without erasing.

What is your take on the body and femininity?

I grew to enjoy outlining flaws and accentuating the style of curves. In my collages, I deconstruct clear silhouettes and plain image. It’s the same thing that I do with my own environment, although that’s completely unconscious. I surround myself with “real” and “simple” people whose natural side inspires me. My job then is to dig deeper.

As an artist what are you trying to achieve?

I want to bother, seduce, and puzzle the viewer -- without necessarily following or giving in to trends -- I am not afraid of surpassing my own limits, nor those of the canvas.

What are your relationship materials, supports and formats?

There are no boundaries between white, recycled paper and me! In my upcoming exhibition, the back of my artwork will be as important as the front. I like to work with used materials, and I value the history of recycled objects. I take pleasure in using pages with their corners turned up.

What tool do you cherish most?

Colour photography! The only way I found to inject colour into my drawings is to insert photographs in collages. For me, this medium represents a certain freedom of action that inspires and moves me. It is still a challenge for me to translate and recreate exactly what’s in my head. Every day, in art as well as in life, I want to feel free in the way I act and in the people I meet. It’s a feeling that I know well, but I can’t totally capture. But photography helps.

Can you tell us a bit about the self-portrait that you’ve made for i-D and Boucheron?

The image was already strong and I didn’t want to mess it up. It wasn’t easy, especially because it was me and everyone has a hard time judging himself. I adopted the same working process than with the rest of my other artworks, it was instinctive and thoughtless: a black line that humanises the portrait and speaks to the notion of passing time and discontinuity, a black line that allows plenty of scope for mistakes. I wanted to applaud this disappearing line. I take tremendous pleasure in working alongside other artists, so with this self-portrait, I tried to create a dialogue between the photographer’s craft and mine.

In a time where art is shared and interpreted on social media, how do you use Instagram?

Each artwork illustrates my life, my feelings. So I don’t really feel the need to post explicit photos of my life on social network. My drawings and my collages do this job for me. They’re my way to express myself and strip me naked. Creating is a sort of therapy: I am evolving through learning about myself.

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