It is normal for graffiti and mural artists to choose abandoned buildings and sometimes old train engines as their canvas to create something. But not for street artist Jan Is De Man. His work attempts to connect neighborhoods and societies with each other, which would in itself be an attempt to bring about brotherhood in the community. It is usually the residents of a particular community who commission him. It is indeed an innovative idea to bring them in whilst working on something. This time, his piece turned out to be completely whimsical. He painted a giant bookcase on one of Utrecht’s many apartment buildings. He had also enlisted the help of fellow street artist Deef Feed, with whom he co-owns a tattoo parlor called “Blackbook Tattoos”.
The first idea for this mural was a giant smiley on the building. As Jan Is De Man mentions, this idea was brought forth from the fact that people do get happy when seeing a smiley. And the apartment owners wanted something positive for their building. But it felt too basic.
After the idea for a smiley got scrapped, he thought about creating a trompe l’oeil, or a visual illusion. Something that would give the appearance of a 3D structure. He studied the location and the structure of the building and decided to paint a huge bookcase. This idea also stems from his desire to make people happy, and he believed that this would work fine with the building and the location.
To make this project interesting, he brought in the residents to help him out with the intricacies by asking for their choice of book. Around 8 languages were brought up, with no barriers to caste, creed, color, race or ethnicity. But Jan Is De Man had one rule- no political or religious book. And we would say, that was quite an interesting exception.
Deef Feed and Jan Is De Man took almost one week of intense planning to get the initial concept done. The main artist believes that the initial concept was the tricky part as the rest is set over it.
It is without a doubt that he did manage to capture the essence of the neighborhood. When asked about his favorite cover, he mentioned it to be the ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’, and the ‘Playboy’.
It isn’t really surprising that this mural has captured the interests of a lot of people. Most stop on their way to work to click a picture before it. Many just stand there and try to see if their favorite author or book is mentioned. As with the original idea of the artist, he succeeds. For people taking the time to connect to other people, irrespective of their ethnicity, culture, political or religious views. Books connect them – cultures unite them.
The artist has several plans up and coming, but he doesn’t want to share them. To him, actions speak more than words, and considering his mural, we sure agree!