Born in 1967, Julien Marinetti grew up in Paris’s Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, along the banks of the River Seine. He inherited the taste for culture and knowledge from his father, a photographer, and from his mother, who ran a school of theatre and dance. As soon as he could walk, he was a regular visitor at the Louvre. Later he learned his craft copying the old masters in the famous museum. Here he discovered Ancient Greece and Rome and developed a passion for 15th-century Italian art.
Paris’s used-book dealers, whose stalls line the river on the Quai de Conti, were his neighbors. They loaned him books on art, philosophy and history, which he devoured. His grandfather, an Italian and an amateur painter, gave him his first box of oil paints. He tried them out for the first time on used kitchen rags, which he had coated with skin glue onto old cardboard. He discovered bronze sculpture in the nearby workshop of Paul Belmondo (father of actor Jean-Paul Belmondo), who was a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (French Academy of Fine Arts). He began salvaging, recycling and tinkering with old objects, out of which he created his first sculptures. When not sculpting, he spent his afternoons at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, a Paris art school specializing in live models, where he studied the nude form and French academic drawing methods.
After a brief spell of just a few days at Paris’ Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts (National School of Fine Arts), Marinetti was determined to make his own way as an artist. He continued learning and perfecting his mastery of painting and sculpting techniques, but also of engraving, ceramics and stained glass.
He drew inspiration from things he felt most passionate about, in particular the cinema. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1961 film Accatone inspired him to create, like the Italian director, an exposition of paintings on wood. Here he focused particular attention on human posture and on the anatomy of three main subjects.
With time the faces of his subjects began to disappear. This was particularly true of his 1994 exhibition, “Explosion anatomique d’une société” (Anatomical explosion of a society), where his work depicted anonymous crowds overwhelmed by social and emotional poverty, with only the main subjects presented in color. The canvases were exposed without easels, which made them even more raw and stark. Bodies gradually became a separate subject by themselves; heads began disappearing from subsequent works, replaced by more Henry Moore-like silhouettes and profiles. His work in volume, shadow and light became more accomplished and complete. The themes and symbols we recognize now became ever-present in his work: hands and feet – of which the artist says, “they are in themselves a complete universe, an entire composition.” – or nativity scenes, crucifixions and odalisques.
In the early 1990s Marinetti met kinetic artist Jean Dewasne, whose antisculptures inspired the beginnings of his later work in support surface. The young artist went deeper into research on color, which he supported by readings on Johannes Itten’s theory of color, among others.
He devoted several years to oil and acrylic painting, before turning again to sculpture. His pictorial work then took a new direction. He showed his first realistic bronze sculpture, the bulldog Doggy John, at the Galerie LC in Paris, which was sold within the hour. Doggy John rapidly became an icon and must-have item, and potential collectors were put on a waiting list. Marinetti created a series of collages using front pages from the International Herald Tribune newspaper, then a series of tributes – notably to Keith Harring and Andy Warhol – with a mix of collage and painting techniques.
His sculpture became the preferred medium for his own painting, or what he termed “the syncretism of art.” “I preferred to distance myself from pure volume,” he explains. “The exercise also taught me that a painting is not bidimensional, but tridimensional in its composition. The artist has an advantage with sculpture; he can physically move around the work as it emerges. Picasso worked this way during one period, when he painted his sculptures. He left sculpture to return to painting. My work has followed a similar process.” Marinetti produced other works, always in bronze and always unique: Teddy bears, Kwak the duck, Ba the panda, or outsized skulls with an impeccable porcelain-like lacquered finish and an explosion of colors, enhanced by engraving and palimpsest work of which he alone possesses the secrets.
His work quickly found the ideal place for its expression in urban decors in the largest cities like Paris, London, New York and Singapore, or in mythical landscapes like Courchevel, Marrakesh or Calvi..
At the same time, Marinetti never stopped working on canvas, creating pictures of ever-increasing size. A long series was dedicated to scenes from Greek mythology, while another paid tribute to legendary paintings like Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) or Raphael’s Les trois graces (Three Graces). He navigates easily between media with two or three dimensions.
Marinetti was profoundly affected by those whom he considers his masters, and still proudly claims his links with Picasso, Matisse, Léger, Moore and Bacon. He is for an art of creativity and poetry, one that is inseparable from great technical mastery.