Fashion designer and artist Jean-Charles De Castelbajac (aka JC/DC) has created a large-scale illustrative artwork on the panels of Covent Garden’s mirrored hoardings. The primary-coloured drawings were done yesterday by the French designer, depicting his “favourite Brits” including Malcolm McLaren and Oscar Wilde.
A contemporary of Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, the 66-year-old designer and artist is best known for his fashion designs, celebrated by the 2006 V&A exhibition The Fashion and Style of JC De Castelbajac. He created the Teddy Bear Coat worn by Madonna in the 1980s, and is credited with pioneering the puffa jacket, no less, in 1976. He also dressed John Lennon, Daft Punk, Farrah Fawcett and Elton John.
In more recent years he has become known for his mega-scale art installations. Last year he created a whopping 3,200sq m illustrated facade for Paris-Orly airport, and a neon frame to surround King Sejong’s statue in Seoul, Korea.
It’s Nice That spoke to JC/DC as he started the artwork in Covent Garden, commissioned by Covent Garden to launch its series of late night shopping events in July.
What’s the inspiration for the artwork?
I want to draw all the English people I love in the clouds, like Malcolm (McLaren) and Vivienne (Westwood), as angels in the clouds. I think we need good vibes right now. So this is my job. I’m a hope virus. Voilà.
I love to work in historical locations. All my work is linked with history, because people have forgotten that history is more inspiring than your own experience. This is a historical location where fashion, theatre and art collide, and I have a link with London since forever. I came here for the first time in 1971 because I became friends with Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood when they opened their store, World’s End. I also had a store here selling very alternative clothes and J.W. Anderson was one of the boys selling there. So my life has been here for 40 years.
How do you start a project of this scale?
You start two days before, you start to build it in your mind.
How do you describe what you do?
I am a very free artist, because I work in fashion, I do paintings, installations, performance, so I’m a very transversal artist. That’s what is my strength and my passion. Because today there are no limits, the medium isn’t the most important thing it’s the message. What joins my work is three colours, red, yellow and blue.
Then I will do all my characters in white, because I’ve been drawing in white chalk for 25 years. I learnt that from Keith Haring who was a good friend of mine.
How would you say that an artwork here would differ from one in Berlin or Paris, for example?
Here it’s more accidental. What I love about English culture is the accidental culture. When I was a little boy, that’s when my imagination started to function. My father took me on an English hunt, I was ten years old, and everyone was so elegant wearing tweed in the rain. Then suddenly I saw the Lord of the place and he came out wearing those pink rubber gloves on his beautiful suit. Nobody noticed but I thought, this is beauty to me, and I looked to my dad and he said, this is English people.
So when I work here there is always a dimension of creative accident. So the fact that I can bring my colours here alongside the cobbled pavement where thousands of people walk every day, I’m at home.