ITW – Julien « Unavista » Deniau

True skate-art lovers have all already had the opportunity to virtually admire the works of Julien “Unavista” Deniau, but for the past few days, it has now been possible to observe them life-size since 10 pieces from his 90’s Hip Hop series have taken up their autumn quarters in Paris.

The exhibition is called “Inspekt da deck” in reference to the Wu Tang Clan, and represents a panel of US rappers from the 90’s including Tupac, Dre, Aaliyah, Notorious B.I.G, and Jeru The Damaja. It can be seen at Le 39 skateshop (on rue Etienne Marcel), and lasts until October 31.

Formerly a pro skateboarder and a great lover of the plastic arts, Julien naturally turned to skate-art almost 20 years ago. Two decades during which he settled in Barcelona and created his identity as an artist there, which led him to the “Collectivo Astillero”, a group of artists in which he occupies a cozy studio, from where he alternates assiduously between sanding and varnishing.

It was precisely on the occasion of the opening of his exhibition at 39 that I was able to chat with “Unavista”, himself happy to have delivered his pieces safely and to be able to take the opportunity to see the homies again. and chill with family. Here are his answers from our exchange:

Julien Unavista in a few basics: Age, City, Stance, Signature Tricks, and your life as a skateboarder? And can you also tell us where your nickname Unavista comes from, what does it represent for you?

Yes of course, I am 45 years old and I come from Chesnay in the 78, from where I moved around a lot in France and around the world as a photographer and skateboarder, before joining Barça in 2000. I still skate from time to time when I have a lot of back pain, I’m regular and I still have my flip, I still hope to be able to do it at 60. My new signature tricks are now skate-artistic upcycling!

The skatelife is therefore less sporty than in the past but it is still my lifestyle in the sense that my artistic activities have always maintained a strong link with the environment and my friends. There is skate-art of course, but also photography and in particular skate photography.

Unavista I took this nickname because the VUE represents me in general, as a photographer, videographer and artist, I could not do anything without my eyes. So UNAVISTA is like saying that everything I do represents my own vision of the world.

skate art Julien Unavista 4

You were one of the first in France to customize skateboards for purely decorative purposes. With large emblematic formats of your work in a mixed sculpture/painting technique. What were your influences at the time?

Indeed, it’s true, skate-art before the customization of boards was only found through graphics under boards that theoretically retained the purpose of being skated. My customizations change the destination of the board, it is obvious by their sizes and their cutouts.

In reality, my inspirations did not come directly from skateboarding because it was through contact with graffiti artists that I chose to resume drawing and painting. For the support, I admit that I did not look for a model or an alternative for long, I had boards lying around at home and it came quite naturally, accustomed since my childhood to working with wood for pure fun.

From a technical point of view, I enjoy experimenting with different materials mixed in my pieces, such as the iron wire that I regularly include in my urban panoramas to represent overhead electric cables, or also the resin that can be found in the portrait of Aaliyah, even if the resin is complicated for what I do, I plan to try another way soon.

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Really, I prefer to stay on my initial approach of recovering materials through recycling.

For my illustrations I mainly work with brush paint and Posca. I like to draw graphic references in symbolic art from different civilizations that echo my inspirations. Hip hop street culture as exhibited here at 39, but also vanished civilizations like the Mayas or Incas that inspired me for the graphic details of my animal series.

Still faithful to your practice of reusing the grips of old boards for sanding?

As I said before, recycling is important and so I use the very grip of the board to sand and polish the boards I cut.

How do you see the evolution of skate-art currently?

Positively! There are more and more artists and scenes open to this discipline to the point that it is even becoming possible to subdivide into sub-family by techniques or dimensions of the works, or even to associate projects on thematic exhibitions.

Compared to graffiti, bridges are created between the world of art and the world of skateboarding. Skate-art finds its place in contemporary art and skate-artists are only better valued. Haroshi’s sculptural work is obviously the most telling illustration of this. At the same time there are skateboarders who are valued as artists like Stephan Janoski who devotes himself to sculpture (bronzes), or Mark Gonzales (poems and naive line drawings).

It is also the job of the artist to further expand his audience so that his messages are received, that people are touched by something that transports them.

Skateboard brands also play an important role by supporting dedicated events or certain projects, hopefully this will help the public, museums and contemporary art galleries to support this dynamic more tomorrow! It is also up to the artists to do the rest. As well as to the media like La Skateboarderie which I thank with all my heart for contributing to the dissemination of my work and skate-art in general. Keep it up guys!

You have already produced various series around themes such as animals, with monumental pieces visible in an article dedicated to you by our colleague Romain from The Daily Board, here at the skateshop Le 39 we find you with this 90’s Hip Hop series , and you have an ongoing series around sports with portraits of famous athletes. Where are you with this sports series for which Paris 2024 could potentially offer you an ideal showcase?

The project advances ! Mohammad Ali was the subject of a play, also visible in Romain’s article. Laura Flessel too. I also have Yannick Noah, Usain Bolt, Zizou, Mickael Phelps or even Michael Jordan. And in the project, there will be other athletes to whom I wish to pay tribute that I will reveal over time.

The series is called Sport 4 earth so for me it reflects the idea that sport and sports people can make an effort to save our environment in one way or another and against overconsumption. I have also dealt with this last subject in another series entitled Save the planet, which warns of the toxicity of industrial overproduction and nuclear or carbon energies. My message in this sense is ecologist, in relation to my animal series which intends to celebrate the diversity of species in danger of extinction and to protect as much as possible (see the Endangered Animals subsection of the Animal World series).

Through the Olympics in France in 3 years, if I have the opportunity to officially position my works near the Olympic village, I will obviously be delighted with this showcase. I know that the Olympic project in Paris will be very focused on the environment and that awareness of the sustainability and recyclability of materials will therefore be in the spotlight. It is all my work that would be valued by such an exhibition. No offense to the skeptics of Olympic skateboarding, you have to know how to move forward positively with opportunities while remaining true to your values, to push them beyond controversy. French skateboarding is alive and well and needs to be supported off the beaten track as well.

What does Olympism mean to you personally and as a skateboarder/artist?

Artistically, Olympism evokes the benefits of sport above all else. I see Olympism as traditionally linked to peace and brotherhood between peoples. Competition is not the central element for me, even if I admire athletes also for their achievements. As a former top athlete, performance still makes a lot of sense. So Olympism evokes in me first and foremost peace and respect.

As a skateboarder I remain attached to the values of underground skateboarding, but the sporty part cannot be denied. I was among the first riders of Adidas in France, long before the developments that the brand subsequently experienced in the world of skateboarding. It’s quite funny to see that at the time when the “core” brands dominated, Adidas was rather decried. Finally, people realized that through the prism of sport rather than that of the “street”, more means were deployed and that it became possible to think of living properly from skateboarding in the same way as other athletes who managed to live off their discipline. Adidas began to appeal more to skateboarders and settled into the landscape of cult brands.

And after animals, music, sport, the environment, is there another theme that you would like to deal with next?

There are a lot of themes that interest me, science, women, journalism, cinema and of course skateboarding.

Beyond that, rather than a theme, it is also new experiences that I am looking for, such as the reintegration of skate-art within urban street-art. As well as painting the largest possible murals using different techniques such as the bomb, the bottleneck. I want to learn something every day, to develop my work.

We discussed it at the time of confinement and since then I have made some street-art collages of pieces of illustrated decks. Mainly in the alleys of Barça but I hope soon to be able to pose some in the streets of Paris or other cities a bit like “Space Invaders”.

Great, to be continued! Thank you Julien, it’s always a great pleasure to exchange with you and discover your new projects via your different insta accounts:




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