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My Name is Oda Jaune Part 2

"I will take the sun into my mouth and paint the clouds along the way." Meet the otherworldly artist whose paintings can make you feel a little yellow.

When Oda Jaune strides into a Left Bank art gallery on a gray Saturday morning in Paris, she arrives with a ray of sunlight. The artist’s eyes shine with curiosity and she closely inspects the pictures hanging on the walls. She exudes bohemian sophistication, both fragile and strong. Jaune—it’s not her real name—was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, as Michaela Danowska. When she was a child, her parents decided it best to give her a formative experience with the “West” in Heidelberg, Germany. Jaune had come from a country of political repression. People had been cowered into fear and not speaking their mind. She could not freely say that she believed in religion. “So I believed in God,” she smiles wryly. “My dream was being free and taking decisions and being allowed to think different thoughts.” What she found in Germany, where she had yet to learn the language, were different rules. “I thought that if I could not make myself understood with speech I would do it with drawing,” she says.

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As one listens to Jaune, one comprehends that nothing she has done or will do should be determined by the rules of others. She is a free spirit. Yet hers is a quiet rebellion, balanced subtly between familiarity and astonishment. Consider her art. Deeply traditional, in that it issues from the canon of painting in the most revered and established sense, she produces oil on canvases at a slow, grueling, painstaking pace, battling with the canvas in the romantic sense of creation. Jaune creates highly unconventional and surprising manifestations of a rich imagination. Sometimes bodies melt into another. Other pictures have the entrails cascading from an orifice as if caused by unexplainable interior explosions.

“It’s like a dance for me when I paint,” says Jaune. “I don’t know what is going to happen. I have an idea, certainly. But like in life, that idea shows me that everything is possible. Sometimes it is very violent. You can either fight against it or embrace it and see if you find this balance that brings you to a peaceful place.” Jaune’s studio on the Left Bank in Paris is very silent, with little light. “The studio allows me to reach a place that I maybe did not expect to go. I like to keep my eyes open and something that may frighten you, if you close your eyes to it, turns to fear. If you can look at it exactly and try to find beauty in this very devastating thing, try to embrace it and if it can bring you to a peaceful place.”

Oda, in German, means precious. Jaune in French means yellow.

Jaune first found the true taste of freedom when, at 18, she went to study painting at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf. “I discovered what I needed,” she tells. While most of Jaune’s fellow students stayed out late, Jaune says she arrived early in the morning so she could be alone. “I loved the silence,” she says. “I would paint until lunch when the other students started to arrive. That’s when I fell in love with Germany.” It was also when she fell in love with her professor, Jörg Immendorff. “He was my soul mate,” says Jaune. “For me, love came very early in life. It was an incredible experience. Not long after they met, Immendorff and Jaune married. She was 20 at the time. The couple had a daughter, Ida, before Immendorff succumbed, age 61, to his illness in 2007. Jaune’s continual quest for reinvention and liberation took her to Paris after the passing of her husband. It was her husband that chose her name. “I always thought a name was to be given when you were born,” says Jaune. “I asked my husband to choose it. I didn’t know that I could be yellow. But now I see myself going more and more for yellow things. Yellow can be the sun. It can be gold. It can be jealousy.”

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Jaune has a proclivity for fashion. “I don’t like anything that is overexposed. I would much rather listen to a secret. The real value of something is what it means to you personally.” If Jaune, who has been an informal ambassador for Fendi, has a fashion lesson to teach it is to follow your heart, to abandon yourself to the moment and its possibilities.

And even if Jaune sounds as if she is always at work, she confesses to a love for loafing. “When I’m not working, every day is the weekend.” And her need for wonder also continues. “I don’t understand the idea of boredom,” she says. “For me, one day is like a full lifetime. So much can happen. Even the morning light produces this feeling of fascination inside of me. Where do you have the guarantee that you wake up tomorrow?” 

PHOTOGRAPHY: Ina Niehoff

TALENT: Oda Jaune

STYLING: Markus Ebner

Photographed on January 2020 around Paris and Lisbon.

This editorial appeared first in Mytheresa’s The Album Nr. 4 2020