An Interview with Haitian-American Visual Artist Jason “JaFleu” Fleurant
Jason Fleurant, also known as JaFleu The Artist, a Haitian-American Visual Artist who is a native of South Florida. He is one of Florida’s talented young artists whose work is described as vivid and radiant. Once laid eyes on his creations, I became an instant fan of his work.
JaFleu is quite an ambitious artist. Over the span of 5 years, from 2012 to 2016, he summed up around 30 pieces in The Art of Treal collection of which US Senator Cory Booker refers to as a “treasure” in his art collection.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing JaFleu to get a close up for our readers.
Give us an introduction… Who is Jason Fleurant? And is he different from JaFleu?
Long story short, I’m a self-taught Haitian-American artist, poet, writer from West Palm Beach, Florida. I’d say JaFleu is more what people know surface being the guy that does all the art stuff. Jason is behind the scenes doing all the moves and what not. It’s cooler to be JaFleu.
Who or what influenced you to start painting?
Well, I started really creating art after the earthquakes in Haiti back in 2010. Seeing the images on what was happening triggered me to draw what I was seeing on the TV, and inevitably my close friend and author Yanatha Desourve said I should try painting. And the moment the paint brush touched the canvas things were never the same.
At what age did you start painting, Jason?
I started painting at the age of 25, with absolutely no training. I just dove head first and through hours and hours have found my way through time.
Do you consider your work abstract?
No, actually. I don’t consider it or subscribe to any of labels. I rather be in my own lane. If my art had to wear a label it would be my own; my art is TREAL (Truly Real), that’s the only way to really describe my work.
What is a tool that you cannot do without?
In terms of painting, a pencil I have to draw it all out. There’s something about blacking out and just drawing that I can’t let go. Other than that I’d say a fine tip paint brush. It’s a really thin tip for detailing… which kinda goes back to drawing.
If you had the chance to sit and talk with one artist who would it be? Living or dead.
It wouldn’t be a visual artist, no pun intended, but it would be Stevie Wonder or Jay-Z. Stevie is my favorite artist in all forms of creation. A man with no sight can give you the greatest visions through his music. I love Hov, I grew up a major fan. So to be able to pick his mind as well would be amazing. I emulated a lot of what he’s done over the years through my art career.
What would you ask him or her?
I actually wouldn’t asked anything particular. I’d just want to soak up game, be able to be in the room during the creative process. I’m more of an observer. I feel like I learn more that way.
Is there a particular element of art that you love working with?
Canvas… I’ve painted on a lot of things over the years. Shoes, tables, walls but canvas is what I love what I need.
Colors. Your paintings are obviously vivid and very colorful. I see that you make a good use of the reds, blues, greens and yellows which to me, looks like you’re using the colors of the Haitian flag. Is that purposely done or is it something you do unconsciously?
Thank you, you may of cracked the code. Outside of trying to always incorporate some form of blue and red it’s all very much subconscious. I very rarely say ok I’m using these particular colors. Normally I just pick one at random and go from there. I’m just the vessel, God is the one doing the work.
Does your choice of colors for a piece also come from your inspiration?
Not necessarily, but that’s not to say that I do not. I don’t allow myself to get trapped to much when it comes to the creative process. I hate when a client commission’s me and ties my hands with what colors they want used. I’m a peacock you gotta let me fly!
What is your favorite color to create with?
I’d say blue, I love the various shades of blue.
How many pieces do you have currently?
Too many, it varies because I create at a large rate. One day I can have none and by weeks end enough to fill a gallery. A lot of curators, dealers and publications have labeled me “prolific” because of that.
Do you have or are considering a series?
There’s various ones, most I’ve forgotten. I refer to my current style of paintings as “The Colored Folkz” series, there’s a pop art series that focuses on black icons/celebrities I did earlier in the year called “Iconic Fleu” that debuted at Art Above Studios in New Jersey.
Do you have a favorite piece? And why is it your favorite?
I do not have one. They’re more like my children or fit whatever mood I’m in. But there’s really no favorite for me.
I mentioned to a friend about this interview and the advice that she’d given me was to not ask you or any artist where they get their inspiration from. I thought that was it was a silly suggestion. I’m sure the readers want to know those details. So where does JaFleu get his inspiration from?
Actually, I consider that my favorite question. One of the most important for artists is to know what it is that inspires you. Life is the ultimate source of inspiration. Be it conversations, listening to music or watching a game. Life is filled with topics and concepts to be explored by my paintbrush. So I never lack ideas to speak on.
Does music inspire you to create?
But of course. I often create pieces based on songs or lyrics.
What genre of music do you listen to when creating art?Ahh that’s the secret between myself and Tidal. It’s why I wear headphones. I don’t like the world to know what’s got me in my zone, it’s my little secret.
By the way, congratulations on landing Haitian Fresh’s ‘Sanzavé’ album cover.
Oh thank you very much. Haitian Fresh is real cool dude. I look forward to doing some more work with him. It provided me a great opportunity to rep for the culture.
Can you finally say that things are starting to pay off with all the hard work you’ve put in creating?
I mean I guess that be based on whomever perspective. I’ve done somethings that people would attribute that feeling to, things like my art exhibited next to Warhol, meeting US Sen. Cory Booker, etc… for me all that’s cool. I’m just out here pursuing the dream at all cost. I have my moments of reflection where I’m “Yo, we here now” but eh I’ve got things on my list to check off before I truly can say that
Now that you’re climbing steadily up to the precipice, where do you see JaFleu the artist in the near future?
Opening my own studio very soon. Traveling the nation and abroad doing exhibitions, owning things like my own hotels, really living the dream. My goal is to be known as the greatest Haitian artist… point blank period So until then, I’m just grinding. Seeing how much further can that dude from Chillingworth take this art thing all the while giving back.
When is your next exhibit?
I’ve got two coming up. #OurBeautiFLEULives which is going to be here in West Palm Beach at Harold’s Coffee Lounge. I’m turning the breezeway into a gallery. That’s July 20th. And July 29th I’m doing a solo exhibition at The African American Research & Cultural Center n Ft Lauderdale for the screening of “Liberty In The Soup” documentary. I might chill a little in August but for my 33rd birthday in September I’m planning something… stay tuned.
Any last words?
I’ve got a motto of sorts… Be Safe, Keep what you kill & Stay Treal!