in The Frame #2 - Mario Oleari - Jaixin The Frame February 2014


The Italian city of Modena has a rich cultural heritage. It boasts two locations designated by UNESCO as contributors to the 'Wealth of Mankind'; was the birth place of tenor Luciano Pavarotti; introduced the world to Balsamic vinegar; also became the provider of the fast red sports car sporting a 'Cavallino Rampante'.

In the 1920s, Enzo Anselmo Ferrari branded his famous, eponymous automobile with the prancing horse emblem, as a talisman for good luck. He sat the horse on a yellow background, in recognition of the colour of the city of Modena, his birthplace. Modena, it would seem, is a fount for the idiosyncratic, and original. And loves animals.

So why not make your street art follow the Ferrari formula. Modena-based designer and artist Mario Oleari does. His own golden calf is in fact a dog. But not just any dog. Jaix is Oleari's companion, and artist's muse.

Fully-embracing the Pop Art idiom, Oleari has ingeniously transformed the physical form of his four-legged friend into a simplified, reduced symbol, or more accurately found the bare essence of dog as logo. Jaix is Oleari's tag.

The dog as artist's muse ripples through art history. Egyptian wall paintings are littered with versions of Anubis, guardian of the dead; latterly Picasso spent his later years in the company of 'Lump', a much-painted Dachshund; Warhol too favoured this breed, making canvases of Archie; so too David Hockney, with Stanley and Boogie. American artist Jeff Koons took the dog motif further, exploring the effect of popular culture and iconography, with his famed ballon dog and Puppy - an enormous West Highland terrier carpeted in bedding plants. On street level, artist and social activist Keith Haring provided 'Barking dog' - applying a new visual language to the counter-culture scene of early eighties New York. Over a decade later, British Street artist Banksy would reference Haring, in a homage piece called 'Choose Your Weapon'. And only last year, in 2013, Banksy opened his month long 'residency' on the streets of New York, with a typically ironic artwork entitled 'You complete me…'.

Yet Oleari takes the paradigm further. His entire working oeuvre is constructed around the Jaix deconstruction. He avoids direct abstraction, by maintaining the barest essential graphic forms necessary to complete the picture. Jaix appears on walls and signposts; posing, yawning, preening, and on occasion peeing. From the latter depiction we can ascertain Jaix is female.

She wears her fifteen minutes of fame well; often seen applying a paw of approval to a new artwork. Oleari's muse, mascot, and proxy pseudonym is reminiscent of the Toasters adoption of a quotidian form (the domestic toaster), and subsequent exploration of its plastic form, into a state of progressive transformation. Such semi-obsessive modus operandi is the hallmark of the dedicated artist.

Through an ongoing inventive exploration, Oleari has made his own unique contribution to the urban art scene, with a keenly observed beauty, and refined motif, built around an economic use of form. This has been recognised with links with the ICONE Graffiti International, who run a street art festival in Modena. Perhaps Oleari's prolific output is best summarised by Enzo Ferrari himself, when he said "I believe most things can be said in a few lines."


When did you first start producing street art? I started practicing street art in '97, with the stickers on Clan TV, with the intent to reach the greatest possible audience thanks to landscape of large urban areas, thereby promoting my art. I made posters and stickers using photocopies and double-sided tape; spray cans and stencils to make t-shirts. I liked to ride a bike at night through Modena, placing posters and stickers in the downtown streets, which I later photographed.

Can you describe how Jaix came into your life?
One day, by chance, in the summer of 2002, thanks to a friend of mine, named Junior. He asked me to accompany him to the Modena kennel. It was the first time I went there. Arriving at the shelter, I went to a cage of puppies, put my hand in the cage to pet them and the first puppy that met me her, Jaix. It was fate. I immediately adopted, it was love at first sight, and since then she has become my muse.

How, and when, did you decide to make Jaix the subject of your street art?
I attended the Art Institute Venturi in Modena, studyinggraphic design, and photography. I've always had a passion for art in general. Certainly the feelings and emotions I feel for Jaix allow me to make art. I think, then, the street was the most natural way to expose my art. Jaix gave me immense potential, from a human's artistic point of view, as a constant figure in my life.

How do you see the evolution of the Jaix depiction? Will you continue to create new ideas from the one source? The evolution is taking place. I'm already creating new and different ideas from the Jaix project. I move according to my taste, just for fun... It is interesting Jaix relating to this performance. Compared with graffiti and the dog next door, almost like a game of mirrors. A single photo capturing both the work and the subject.

Does having one subject allow you to explore ideas easier?
I like simple designs. They remain more faithful to reality. The Jaix project is applied both as art on canvas, as well as stickers and graffiti.

What (and where) would be your ideal place to create a Jaix artwork? I see the city as a canvas to decorate, no matter where, the important thing is that it is affordable for everyone.

What does she think about her fame? It helps to know the way I see things, and to bring even more users to the project. The fame is a consequence of 'interest. It's nice to be followed by the fans! His fame is mine.

What has Jaix taught you? He taught me that art is very simple in its content. The emotions we live, love and the feeling that I feel for Jaix allow me to create art. Being a pet, what do I care to emphasize is that often we do not realize that art is simple. Life, love, family. Living everyday between imagination and reality.

Are there artists, or street artists, who you admire? My focus is on certain artists that have influenced me from the artistic point of view. Such as Keith Haring.

How far can you take this simple idea?
The idea of propaganda dog, man's best friend, is a simple and original idea. Jaix is the result of nature and the emotional impact is important for me.

Is there any message or subtext to the art that you create?
Mankind is drawn to dogs because they are so similar to humans; loyal, confused, easily disappointed, eager for fun... The message is love!


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