A brush with

'My work rejects the linear time developed in conventional films': Isaac Julien on Lina Bo Bardi, displaying art and the Italian Renaissance

The British artist and filmmaker on his favourite poets, music and artists on the A brush with… podcast

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Isaac Julien's Trussed I, (1996). © Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

Isaac Julien's Trussed I, (1996). © Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

Max Beckmann's Before the Masked Ball (1922), Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich

Isaac Julien on... the first artist he ever loved

"I remember going to see a show of Max Beckmann at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. That was the moment where, for me, painting became alive. [...] I am interested in history painting, and I think in Beckmann's work is involved in the painterly allegorisation of a political moment, commenting on the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust that would follow."

Isaac Julien, Tecnologia pré-histórica / Prehistoric Technology (Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement) (2019). © Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice.

... the Italian-Brazilian architect Lino Bo Bardi, who is the subject of a recent series by Julien

"In terms of utilising spaces for the display of artworks, Lina Bo Bardi was exploring not what we look at ordinarily, but the verso—what's behind the image. She was really interested in stripping down the conventions of how you would install works and how would you install them without walls. She's also interested in the spatial relationship to the image and breaking down the paradigm of works on a wall in a bourgeois sense. There's a certain practicality, I think, to how she was thinking about space and the arrangement of images."

Isaac Julien's Mazu, Silence (Ten Thousand Waves), (2010)
© Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

... how his work plays with modern conceptions of time

"We're now able to experience things simultaneously and we do that all the time—just being on computer looking at emails, on Facebook or Twitter or wherever. But this way in which time now has this bricolage effect is really something that we take for granted in our everyday activities. And that seeps into an artist practice. So I think all I'm doing is really playing with the notion of time as a way of thinking about all the multiple levels being interpolated or being influenced as subjects or humans every day. I guess I brought that sort of philosophy into my work, and, of course, its rejection of the way that time in a more linear fashion is developed in conventional films."

Isaac Julien's Baltimore (2003), installed at the 2004 Berlin Biennale. © Isaac Julien

... how a 15th-century Italian Renaissance painting—once thought to be by Piero della Francesca but recently reattributed to other painters—inspired his 2003 film Baltimore

"Ideal City was one of the first works that explored perspective. And [during the making of] Baltimore, which works with the three screens, the question of perspective and the gaze were entering into the way I was making works and how they were challenging vision. And so I could see a kind of connection, quite a neat one. That was initally going to be the subtitle for work: Baltimore, Ideal City. But then I thought perhaps that's a bit too pretentious..."

Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi—A Marvellous Entanglement, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte, North Carolina, until 27 Feb 2022; Territories (1984) and Paradise Omeros (2002) feature in Life Between Islands: Caribbean British Art 1950s-Now, Tate Britain, until 3 April; Two of Julien's portraits feature in Black American Portraits at Lacma, until 17 April; His film Leopard (2010) features in Family: Visions of a Shared Humanity, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, until 13 February; Lessons of the Hour (2020) is shown in Social Work II, Gagosian Grosvenor Hill, London, until 18 December.

A brush with… series 7 runs from 17 November-15 December 2021, with episodes released on Wednesdays. You can download and subscribe to the podcast here. This episode is sponsored by Bloomberg Connects.