See French street artist Globepainter's murals in Jinshan

The artist Julien Malland on travelling and painting houses

Fengjing town, located in Shanghai’s deep south, has long been renowned locally for its ‘peasant art’ –bright, vibrant paintings that decorate the walls of rural buildings dotted throughout Jinshan district. But in the past couple of months some new, foreign paintings have been popping up on the sides of houses, snack stalls and farm buildings. Mostly consisting of colourful child-like figures, these new additions are the work of French street artist Seth (Julien Malland).


First drawn to graffiti art in 1980s Paris, Seth has gone on to produce art in places as far-flung as Tahiti, Brazil and India, staying true to his social media handle of ‘Globepainter’.


His first visit to Shanghai saw him collaborate with locally-based artist Popil on an installation at Xintiandi, but it was a series of works that he undertook on a second visit last year that really brought him to the attention of the masses here. Seth painted a collection of female figures in a soon-to-be-demolished lilong on Kangding Lu, but after only a few weeks the works were covered up by the authorities, creating a social media storm. ‘I was in France back then,’ he says. ‘I didn’t realise what was going on. Some friends were telling me about it but I could not measure how viral it had become. Coming back to China, I was really surprised by the impact of these few paintings. I always try to paint for the people living in the places I work on; the fact that it touched so many people really encourages me to keep going.’


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Seth’s visit last month was far more harmonious. He was invited by More Than Opera, a Peking opera production company, to create works near the Power Station of Art, and by Shanghai United Foundation to work in Fengjing of Jinshan district. Nevertheless, his painting still garnered plenty of attention. ‘The reactions among locals in Fengjing have been outstanding especially because my paintings were about them, their traditions and the things that matter to them,’ he says. ‘I also collaborated with local painters and farmers like the artist Cao Xiuwen, which was a way to pay respect to their wonderful art form. If you reach out to local residents generously and respectfully you touch them on a personal level.’


His works can now be found dotted throughout Fengjing, adorning everything from gates to houses to canal locks. ‘I try to give a bit of dream, pleasure to people, but I also try to open a debate on our relationship with materialism, progress and this ever-changing world,’ he says of his art. ‘My characters are doors that open on an imaginary world. I often hide the faces so that the public can easily identify themselves. It’s up to each and everyone to find in it a personal meaning.’


Find details of how to get to Fengjing and where to see some of Seth's works through the features below:

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