Marie Julou is the painting pseudonym for Tina McCallan. Marie, her middle name and Julou, her mother’s maiden name. Wanting to honour her grandfather and reconnect with her French ancestry while living in Paris in 2002, she started to introduce herself as Marie Julou, wear berets and frequent cafes such as “Le Petit Fer a Cheval” whilst speaking French with artists such as Oleg Tcherney and Stephane Moreaux. It was all a bit tounge in cheek, an acknowledgement that making art and being an artist could be a kind of performance.
Born in Guernsey, Channel Islands in 1964, at four years old, an experience during art class at her infant school propelled her onto the path of being an artist. The teacher filled a huge tray with paint of all colours and the students were told to step barefoot into it. “I will never forget the delightful sensation of cold paint between my toes with all the colours swirling together. We were told to then walk over a large sheet of paper leaving a trail of our tiny footprints behind.” These colourful neolithic like footprints showing evidence of her existence was to send her on the path of being an artist.
Julou studied painting at Portsmouth Polytechnic (B.A 1984-87) and the Royal Academy of Arts in London (M.A. 1990-1993) after which she was awarded a DAAD scholarship to study with Gunter Uecker at the Art Academy Dusseldorf (1994-96). Concerns at the time were the spiritual in abstract art, authenticity and female language in painting.
Keen to experiment, in Düsseldorf, her art practice broadened to include installation, performance and film where she used her body as a painting tool in works such as “Kissed Mirrors” and “Bubblegum Room”. This resulted in several group and solo shows in Germany and the U.K finally culminating in a nomadic practice called “Recreations”, a painting performance where she invited the audience of museums, often hundreds of people, to become the artists and paint their own collaborative masterpiece. See www.tinamccallan.com.
Parallel to this nomadic “extroverted” practice she has always produced abstract paintings and sketchbooks in a more “private” introverted practice exhibiting under her pseudonym. Over the past few years, this work has become her main focus.
In her current work: The Pompeii Series 2022, she revisits her previous concerns but shifting her focus more to the materials and alchemical process of painting. Using pigments, inks, and modelling paste, she builds textured works which resemble beautifully weathered, contaminated, or corrupted surfaces. Inspired by a recent trip to Naples and Pompeii, she imagined archaeologists in the future digging up abstract paintings from a buried museum, the surfaces of the works concealed by soot, dust and bits of detritus. In a process of sprinkling the pigment and pipetting ink and water onto a horizontally placed canvas, she creates paintings with a physical presence that look as if they were made by the rain or by the process of calcification or contamination. They speak of impermanence and deal with light catching the surface. The colours and titles of the paintings are inspired by fresco fragments as well as the names of the Roman villas.
In a previous series, Julou sought to re-appropriate the almost forbidden colour Pink to make a variety of paintings, some of which have their roots in formalism, others in process painting and others in “Outsider Art”, developing a practice she calls, “Irreverent Abstraction”. These were shown in group shows entilted “Dirty Pink” she curated in 2021 and 2022 in Valencia, Spain and Florence, Italy,
Another concern in her work is the idea of “Horror Vacui”, the fear of empty space. Using pencil on oil paint, she draws onto the surface making repetitive marks that resemble doodles, scratching the surface like sgraffito in Italian art. Other works allude to tattoos and scarification while in some, drips are visible, highlighting gravity’s effect on the paint. The material and meditative process of painting is crucial, as well as an awareness of the haptic: how time seems to slow down during the act of making and viewing a painting. Each painting has its own archaeology, a history of colours and marks buried under the final layer. There is a recent fascination with Entropy, how the painting carries it’s own inherent destruction within it.
Having lived in Düsseldorf, Paris, Istanbul and Fethiye, she seeks the liberating status of outsider and currently paints out of a studio in Russafa, Valencia, Spain and Hove, Brighton.