Today we interview Jack from TML Crew, Jerusalem, Israel. Depending on your point of view you could either see the humour in Jack’s yellow and grey characters or his stark sense of nihilism and possibly both. Despite his efforts to disconnect himself from Israeli culture, it’s the fact that Jack sits on the cusp between humour and sadness that reveals parts of his culturally identity, all executed with clear skill.
Taking Jack Way Back When
I am 24 years old, originally from a small village in the north of Israel: a quiet, boring, green and beautiful place. I moved to Tel Aviv for a short time when I was 18. In the last two years I’ve lived and work in Jerusalem.
I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember; I’ve kept sketchbooks from the fourth grade, until now. Sketches for me are like a diary - they remind me of moments and feelings that I otherwise would probably forget! They remind me of who I was.
Art was just a hobby until I was 17 (in 2004) and then I found graffiti. The adrenaline and satisfaction were addictive and there was no way to escape it. I had no option to do anything else. If you start doing graffiti after your teenage years, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons! I saw for the first time in Tel Aviv that I wasn’t the only one doing graffiti.
I was seventeen when I chose my name; I was looking for a really generic-sounding name, but not an Israeli or local name. By using a name that’s outside of Israeli culture allows me to disconnect from my own work (like an outsider looking at the World around him). A false name gives me creative freedom and releases me from consequences and responsibility.
A lot of the time artists explain their work; using a made-up name allows me not to have to explain anything, so the work speaks for itself. I see a lot of talk about art as a cover for shit art work.
Our crew TML started with just two guys (myself and Singer from AFK). TML simply stands for Three Meaningless Letters or just TheMeaningLess. TML is like life itself: is a joke. It’s about nothing and the lack of human ability or desire to look for meaning in life or art.
I try to take inspiration from as many artists as I can, like Bom-k, Dran, Herakut, Ethos, Belin, Aryz, Alexandros Vasmoulakis, Word to Mother, Os Gêmeos and many more. I learn something from each of them, mix it all together and create my own stuff. I am trying to make my art and characters disturbing, even annoying. I don’t like cute and flattering art.
The characters are on the border between comic and tragic; some are in ridiculous situations, but they refer to themselves very seriously, just like we take ourselves seriously in real life. The characters are looking out into the world, without anything to say or a way to react to what they see on the streets. They’re lost and floating in space; they’re only drawings and they can’t change anything.
I had learned drawing mostly by myself, although now I study animation. It’s always fun to watch your drawings moving! I’m always searching for something new - I get bored very quickly so I have to try new things. I do animations, paint canvases, make videos, etc. I also make great spaghetti. The main thing I cannot breathe without is my sketchbook and walls.
The street art scene in Jerusalem is almost non-existent, although Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel, there is only few streets where artists work here. The authorities treat street art in a two-faced way. As one department is buffing the walls another other invites street artists to take part in projects and cultural events in Jerusalem!
The unique part about Jerusalem is the way the citizens approach street art. There is a culture war between the religious and non-religious people. Most of my works on the street are censored by religious groups. They impose their beliefs on everyone else. I’s rather get buffed by the City Hall than censored; this culture war is far more offensive. I’m ashamed to say it, but the religious groups win.
40 minutes from here, in contrast, Tel Aviv is an entirely different world. The public is much more open and accepting, everyone likes street art and some street artists have even participated in an exhibition sponsored by The Tel Aviv Museum of Art. I hardly paint in Tel Aviv but when I do the works stays for a long time.
There are few original artists in Tel Aviv but in my opinion the people in Tel Aviv adore street art so much they get high from even the ugly and stupid art they see in the street. They rush to admire their street artists, regardless of their technique, style, the time it took them to make the art or how special/original the art is. Tel Aviv recognizes the artists and sweeps them off the streets to galleries.
The “blooming” scene of Tel Aviv makes me jealous but the fact that street art has become mainstream and loved will eventually destroy this culture. It should be avant-garde, opposed, underground and illegal. That’s why, despite the fact that Jerusalem dislikes street art, here’s where it’s needed more.