I recently had the pleasure of chatting with artist Jaybo Monk at his studio in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin. I arrived not exactly knowing what to expect, and I left with my mind buzzing with new ideas and information shared by this wizened raconteur.
I first saw Jaybo’s work on Instagram. I was immediately attracted to the abstract image which, upon further inspection, was made up of realistic renderings of body parts. After more research I discovered his studio is located right here in Berlin and emailed an inquiry to visit. Surprisingly, he responded quickly with confirmation that I could indeed stop by and see what he was working on. Even through his emails I could get a feeling of a genuine, honest man with a passion for art. Our interaction reaffirmed this, and I was able to pick the mind of a true artist.
Jaybo Monk was born Jeremy Baudouin in a small village in southern France. As a child, he worked on a farm and drew. He loved Mickey Mouse and would copy complete Mickey Mouse magazines (including the ads) that he would receive every week. This exercise foreshadowed his creation of Berlin’s first independent magazine, Style & the Family Tune, in the 80s. The magazine, with its name taken from funk band Sly & the Family Stone, offered an eclectic mix of music, fashion, art, and more (More info of the mag here). After the magazine, Jaybo transitioned into studio art after an artist dropped from a show at a friend’s gallery.
In his cozy, though mostly unheated studio, we chatted about art, books, music, and the world, amidst the mass of materials yet to be turned into art. Jaybo’s work mostly consists of paintings, but also includes Dada-esque sculptures made from found objects. When I arrived, Jaybo was pulling a bad Renior flower print out of the gaudy framed that enclosed it, with plans on painting over it. His work develops from one step to the next, usually started with Surrealist mark-making, be it smearing material on a canvas or creating an etching of his studio floor. By the time his has completed a painting, the expedition of art has allowed him to create a figurative collage hinting at but revealing no complete figure. As he says, his works are about absence. The loss of a friend, which he seems to have dealt with all too much, a wallet (all to real in my case), a painting, whatever. These things are what he wants to represent in his work.
Though I had questions prepared to ask him, our conversation flowed freely and ranged a variety of topics. I peppered him with questions about his background, art history, and technique, but we veered into topics of philosophy, hip-hip, and gentrification. The beauty is that all of these things are encompassed in his work, and hopefully someday, mine as well. He presented his influence from heavy-hitting figures such as Duchamp, Rauschenberg, and Francis Bacon, as well as the more elusive names like Ray Johnson and Andy Goldsworthy. In terms of music, his roots begin with hip-hop, which he helped spread in Berlin during its genesis, but have now spread out to more avant-garde names such as John Cage. Philosophers like Camus stir his imagination during early morning readings, and we both agreed on the honest, bleak, yet sympathetic work of Bukowski. His love of poetry comes through in his word choices and phrases, which would hit me out of the blue like a stone thrown by a friend. When I expressed to him my worries of my post-graduation art career, he responded:
“You need things in your head and your heart to put on canvas, and its not paint.”
I discovered from our chat that Jaybo Monk participated in a group show, a solo show, and two art fairs (totaling to a sum of 28 pieces) in the last 3 months. He is indeed a busy man. Yet, at the end of it all, he has the time to let a complete and random, albeit charming, stranger come to his studio and take some time away from his work. Beyond my appreciation and interest in the painted collages and sculptures that he makes, I now have a definite gratitude for Jaybo Monk himself. We developed a connection between our interests, traded names, and he even gave me a small drawing. A true artist; a true man.