In Conversation with Jean Paul Langlois
by Jonathan Bell-Etkin
May 17, 2017
What was your introduction to Spaghetti Westerns?
At fifteen, I dropped out of high school and made some older friends. They exposed me to foreign films and art films. When all I'd ever seen was shit like Indiana Jones or the Apple Dumpling Gang, a movie like Fistfull of Dollars blew my little teenage mind.
What draws you to the imagery of the Wild West?
My love of country music? Joking. I love the starkness of the landscape, the look of some gunslinging thug just sitting on his horse. There's something timeless, perfect... One shot tells the whole story.
Do you have a formal education in colour theory? What makes you decide to paint a horse pink or a cloud green?
I've just been painting a long time. Eventually you figure out how colours affect each other. I usually get inspired by seeing a set of colours together, maybe from a cartoon or some fancy new sneakers. Once I start, I just work it out as I go.
What's your favourite colour?
Anything but brown.
How do you think Western themes apply to contemporary times?
Not much has changed—cowboys are still killing Indians, lynching blacks. Everyone's looking for that gold, packing guns...
Have you seen some of the modern Westerns? Do they hold up to the classics?
I like the genre blending Westerns like Bone Tomahawk or Dead Birds. Tarantino's last few movies were good too. The Australian film The Proposition is an all time fav. But there's a quality to the classics that can't be recaptured. That being said, I watch a lot of old garbage just to find the occasional gem.
What spurred the shift from the Fake Indians series to these new works featuring samurai and apes?
It's just the next logical phase. The story needs new blood, different characters. They all look good on horseback so they fit into my world.
Do you have a favourite Japanese classic?
I love Yojimbo and The Hidden Fortress but Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman movies are my fav. He's a very deep character. There's actually a Western remake called Blindman with Ringo Starr... It's not the best...
If you could share a beer with one director and one painter, who would they be?
Emily Carr and Peter Jackson. Joking, although her monkey was probably entertaining.
I think Richard Prince and Werner Herzog. I'm sure Werner would hog the mic but at least he'd be funny and interesting. And I'd just like to be seen hanging out with Richard Prince. Both those guys just do what they wanna do—they don't give a fuck. And most of what they produce is gold.
What's your favourite thing about Vancouver?
The commitment of the street people. They just keep that party rocking. No matter how far away welfare day is, rain or shine, in the doorway of a fancy bistro or the middle of the street they just rocking it out, keeping it real.
INTERVIEW FOR STOCKYARDS GALLERY
In one paragraph, who are you?
My name is Jean Paul Langlois. I am an artist of Metis descent but I have almost no connections to my culture or heritage. I grew up on Vancouver Island but currently live and paint in East Vancouver. I'm also sometimes known as DJPLAN. Although I rarely play music in public these days I still collect records and go out to shows and parties as much as possible. I’m actually a very private and sensitive person and value my solitude but some people only know my public persona which can be a bit loud and caustic….
How did you become an artist ?
I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember and started painting watercolours when I was a young teen. Early on I was inspired by Mad and Heavy Metal Magazine. I loved Moebius and Sergio Argones. The cheesy sword and sorcery oil paintings of Frank Frazetta.
When I was a teen my Mom, bless her heart, thought she was giving me a great art education by buying these dusty old coffee table books at garage sales. A lot of Cezanne, Gaugin and Impressionists. Really boring Canadiana: Lawren Harris or Robert Bateman. I thought these were the only painters in the world. There were no real art galleries to visit growing up on Vancouver Island. West Coast watercolour landscapes at tourist shops were what I grew up on….
So obviously Art History at College was a revelation. Learning about all the major movements in the 20th century blew my mind. And seeing artists like Francis Bacon or Mark Rothko for the first time was life altering. I really connected with Eric Fischl and was influenced by his brush style and subject matter. In art school I felt shock value was important, so attempting to deal with themes like sexual violence and drug abuse (in the most ham handed and inarticulate ways) got me kicked out. Of not one, but two art schools on Vancouver Island.
These days some of the artists who have the most direct influence on my practice include Richard Prince. His appropriation and reinvention of cowboy images speak to me but I love his humor and ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude. His concepts are clever but he’s also an excellent painter and hard worker.
I’m obsessed with Henry Darger, the outsider artist who secretly wrote the longest novel in history and illustrated most of it using a completely innovative style of appropriation. Because of a lack of confidence in his ability to draw freehand he would trace and collage. Taking images from comics, colouring books and catalogues to create fantastical landscapes and portraits of beauty and horror. His story is quite moving. His work is lovely but disturbing. I find the technique of combining opposing elements from pop culture to create alternative narratives a useful tool. Of course he never considered what he was doing, he just did what he had to…
I love the photography of Edward Curtis. The posed portraits or documentation shots of indigenous peoples in N. America at the end of an era…some of it is exploititive and staged for shock value but most of it is dignified and honest. Its moving to see an image of a Blackfoot on a horse and think that's how my ancestor lived…I think you can see his influence in my Fake Indians and Planet of the Apes portraits.