Dutch street artist, Jan Is De Man was commissioned the work by residents of a Utrecht neighborhood and took the help of his partner and fellow artist Deef Feed to complete the work that has become the talk of the town.
Dutch street artist Jan Is De Man is one of a kind. He prefers to collaborate with the community in his work. In contrast to the likes of Banksy and others who prefer to work in anonymity by painting on abandoned buildings or empty walls, Jan makes works for and with the community at large. His aim is to create projects "where everyone can identify themselves."
For his latest masterpiece, the residents of a neighborhood of the city of Utrecht commissioned work from Jan, and he delivered something really special. Jan's work is a gigantic trompe l’oeil mural of a bookshelf on a three-story apartment building that has become the talk of the city, reports Bored Panda. A trompe l’oeil mural can be defined as "a style of painting that's so realistic that it appears to be three-dimensional.” Jan was assisted by his friend and fellow artist, Deef Feed, with whom Jan has worked on a few other murals. The two also own a tattoo shop named “Blackbook Tattoos.” Books such as Sapiens by author Richard Dawkins, to those such as Life by Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards, and fictional ones simply named after the two artists found a place in the bookshelf. The mural of the bookshelf was not the original plan for the project.
Even though the bookshelf wasn't the initially chosen subject for the mural, people from all over the city and some even from outside have come to take a look at Jan and Deef's masterpiece. Jan said about the location of his latest work, “I know the people who live on the ground floor very well. They’ve wanted a mural by my hand for a while. They also wanted to let me feel free in my design as long as it would bring something positive to their neighborhood."
He added, "The first idea was to paint a smiley. A very big smiley. Because I believe people become happier when they see a smiley every day. But this idea didn’t feel complete, it felt too simple.” He then hit upon the idea of turning the building into a giant canvas for a trompe l’oeil mural. He said, “I studied the shape of the house and the location where this house stands in and suddenly the idea of making a huge bookcase hit me. I love making illusions on walls and I like to see smiles on people’s faces and this idea (I thought meanwhile) could bring all this together.”
The idea was also to involve the entire community in the neighborhood into the artistic process. Jan said that he made known his intentions to the community "by asking people for their favorite books." He added, "We were able to put 8 languages and cultures together in the same concept. Everybody, every age, every culture, every language was welcome. The only rule I set up to participate in this art project was: no political books and no religious books. Besides that every book title was welcome.”
The artwork took an entire week to complete and the two were busy throughout that time, working round the clock to translate their own ideas, as well as incorporate feedback from the community they were working from paper to the actual canvas - the apartment wall. The most difficult part was the planning process and to get the concept right. Jan said that he wanted to "get the right concept, that fits the wall, that fits the neighborhood. but when you got the right idea, then there is not much difficult.”
Looking at the work done, one could say that the artists have done justice to the spirit of the neighborhood and its residents. Talking about his favorite books, Jan said, ” I am really fond of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime written by Mark Haddon And of course the Playboy. The neighborhood where this work was made is filled with different cultures. And I’ve noticed that this project brought (and hopefully for as long as it lasts) people together without pushing it."
He added, "They (residents) meet each other through books. Regardless of the differences in cultures, regardless of the differences in political point of views. Regardless of being extreme right or extreme left.” When asked about his future project, Jan said, "There is a lot of things coming, but I don’t like to tell plans, because I believe that if you tell your plans they don’t work. It sounds corny, but in the end, actions speak louder than words.”