Judith de Leeuw creates murals as a voice for the voiceless and uses art as a tool to draft attention for social issues, combining emotional visualization.
an article written by Carmen Line Hust
ARTICULATE #27 | APRIL 2021
The Dutch artist Judith de Leeuw (b. 1995) also known as JDL Street Art is turning the dark edges of humanity and society into beauty and mutual understanding through her murals. Since the age of 12 JDL has been wondering what her role was in society, and how she could contribute to a system in which she feels alienated. Due to her passion in drawing, she now finds herself happy and fulfilled, using her murals as a tool to address social issues by emotional visualization.
For instance, JDL has just completed a giant mural in the center of Rome for the LGBT community (Yourban2030). The mural has received a lot of attention and was covered by worldwide press and admiration from the local community. To JDL this means that the topic has had been met and addressed – as a small victory for all the hard work that the LGBT activism organization has been doing through time. Thinking back at the collaboration, JDL feels honored to be part of something so important to society.
”When I think of the beauty and soul that we brought to the people that were in need,
I smile when I can see them smile.
That is my drive to move forward.”
The creative tools of JDL include photography, acrylic paint and aerosols. To capture her idea, she uses photography, modelling the basis of the mural from that point on. The work of JDL is always pre-thought. She chooses her subject carefully, using mind maps and a wide range of research.
JDL always tends to plan out her designs in every specific detail, although she often experiences ‘happy accidents’ (as she calls them) during the creative process. With ‘happy accidents’ JDL refers to events within the process, that she didn’t foresee, but works out perfectly. Once in Sweden, when making a mural for Artscape, JDL accidently gave her model three arms, but as the subject of the mural was saturated around a psychotic musician, it somehow made sense.
In choosing her subject, JDL is often contacted by other people with themes in which they share an interest. For instance, she worked with the organization of Street Art Mankind in New York, who also have been working with the United Nations to draft attention toward child trafficking.
When she gets a project with complete creative freedom, JDL looks around in the local community to map out what’s important to them and research if there’s something specific about the location that she should consider. In these cases, most of the project is spent researching.
To JDL composition is secondary to concept, as this is the key point of the art piece. However, focusing on the techniques of composition, JDL is all about triangles. She uses triangles to draft attention to the most important spaces within her murals, or the spaces where she places the most important people, symbols or objects. As an additive, JDL uses the turquoise color to put an extra highlight on this triangle composition.
The work of JDL is influenced by the Italian painter Caravaggio (1571-1610), his technical skills, the expression of motion and emotion that brings out the power of his work.
JDL is also inspired by the French street artist JR (b. 1983) for addressing social issues, and the German photographer Gerda Taro (1910-1937) for her spirit and activism. The Czech author Franz Kafka (1883-1924) inspired her with his iconic emotional storytelling, and so does the American artist Jeff Koonz (b. 1955) for ‘blowing up’ things that seem small. By definition JDL is not a ‘fan’ of all the mentioned artists, but she remembers seeing their work and learning something from them. All these lessons – sometimes taken subconsciously – were saved to her ‘hard drive’ of tools and reasons that influences her current work.
This article about Judith De Leeuw takes part of the 27th magazine, ARTICULATE #27. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below.