Jean Jullien’s first exhibition for kids sees the illustrator create an underwater world
The show, also Jullien’s first in Australia, draws from the artist’s own fascination with the ocean as a child and now a father.
- Jenny Brewer
- 31 October 2023
Jean Jullien will take over the National Gallery of Victoria’s kids’ gallery this December with an interactive and immersive exhibition about the ocean, and how to respect it. Rififi: Jean Jullien for Kids will be the illustrator’s first dedicated kids’ show, and draws on his own childhood interests as well as experiences as a father. “For as long as I remember, the ocean’s had a very strong impact on me,” Jullien says. “Rock pools and the intense imagery of the aquatic fauna and flora filled my imagination from an early age…[now] I have two kids and we marvel together at what life lies beneath the blue drape of water.”
The free exhibition will be the largest and most ambitious show staged at the NGV kids’ gallery, and will feature an underwater installation, with hands-on activities “to share my love of anything aquatic!” Jullien continues. The illustrator hopes it will encourage young visitors to engage with and explore the scenography, which in his signature fun and characterful aesthetic is sure to captivate young imaginations, and convey how children’s actions can protect the ocean and marine wildlife. The title Rififi is inspired by a 1950s French film of the same name, a slang word deriving from ‘rif’, a French military term for ‘combat zone’, which can be loosely translated in English as ‘trouble’ or ‘rumble’.
The artworks draw from Jullien’s childhood in Lesconil, a small fishing village in the west of France, where a young Jullien spent countless hours documenting the seaside in sketchbooks and paintings. “Rififi is a fantastic opportunity for me to pour all these drawings onto the walls of the NGV,” he adds. “I hope [it] will engage our little sea explorers and teach them to love and respect the ocean.”
The exhibition is part of the NGV Triennial 2023, which comprises work by over 120 contemporary artists, designers and collectives including 25 specially commissioned projects. The exhibition is accompanied by a new kids book by NGV and illustrated by Jullien, depicting a fun array of ocean creatures, from sea squirts to spotted eels.
Rififi: Jean Jullien for Kids opens 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne.
Jean Jullien: Rififi (Copyright © Jean Jullien, 2023)
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