It is hard to resist the joy and playfulness that Jules Bakhos’ work evokes. By using bold colors and local memorabilia references (Chiclets gum – you had to be there), the Lebanese artist creates a sense of familiarity and comfort, while smileys and palm trees add an element of whimsy. The borderless quality of Bakhos’ paintings is what makes them so compelling. The watercolors seep through the edges, blurring the border between the image and its surroundings.

If we can learn anything from his work, it is that sometimes, the simplest things are the most delightful.

KHAMSA caught up with the artist to discuss his inspirations, favorite cities, and the creative process.

١ Your artwork often looks like it’s melting and the use of watercolours create a washed-out feel. Is there a reason for this?

They’re all faded memories. Each of these elements influenced me and melted into my subconscious at different points in my life. Every time I see one of them, a collection of washed-out emotions comes flooding back.

٢ You once described your art as “superpositions of memories, persons, and the city as subjects.” If you could personify or give a subject to your favourite cities, what element or thing would that be?

I feel strongly towards two cities so far, that have given my work direction in so many ways.

Amsterdam, for its contained quaint architecture that makes me feel like I’m living on a movie set. The bicycles, the streets, the open windows that give you direct access to the little scenes that make this city special.

Beirut, the colorful chaos that has shaped and influenced most of my work. Many of my collections were inspired by local memorabilia and vintage products.

٣ What is your interest in pop culture references, and how do you incorporate them into your art?

I’m intrigued by the striking imagery created by layering text and images. I love basing myself off of childhood pop-art references and ephemera, things a lot of us disregard growing up. In a nutshell, I appreciate how pop culture puts everyday objects front and center; and I do the same my way.

٤ What motif, object, or character have you painted or sculpted most dear to your heart?

The smiley has become a staple in all of my collections. It has evolved and transformed depending on the subject and the medium I am using. I love how basic shapes, colors and even drops of paint can portray moods and feelings.

٥ Your Instagram bio says you are colourblind. Does that affect the way you work?

My protanopia has been my neutral state since I was born; I don’t know another reality. I would answer the question by saying it doesn’t affect my work that much, but in the rare case it does, I have my workarounds.

٦ There is a quote that says, “I’m colourblind, but I’m not colour dumb.” Can you speak to that idea?

The shades I’m blind to I’ve learned to understand, and I’ve created my own process of picking colors. I match colors based on shades and depth, and also use my emotions to guide me. Colors play with my feelings, so I usually know what I’ll gravitate towards in any given moment. 

٧ Can you walk us through your creative process?

Everyday life has its way of planting ideas in my head. Objects and moments that tap on my emotions turn into concepts that slowly grow into full fledged ones. Along the way, the ideas I choose to research and focus on evolve and transform numerous times through trial and error. The use of different materials gives each of my pieces its own shape and life, which sometimes surprises me! The unpredictable nature of my work and media I use shapes my artworks greatly.

٨ What you listen to when you’re creating? Music, podcasts, TV…?

I incorporate all 3, depending on my mood. I always try to keep it positive and uplifting, which gives me a push.

٩ How do you feel your art has evolved since your first exhibition?

The fluid nature of my work and lifestyle is in constant change, it’s derived from my state of mind at a specific moment in time. The smallest of things, whether an object or something in my environment, can capture my interest and set in motion a new chain of experimentations. Over the years, I feel like I’m becoming more courageous and confident with the materials I use and the difficult projects I tackle. 

١٠ How would you describe your artistic style?

So far, it’s been eclectic, fun and colorful. You never know what happens next, where my experiences, emotions and curiosities will lead me.

١١ Can you describe an average day in your life?

My days are definitely spontaneous, I don’t have a daily routine. I tend to sway towards positive people and surroundings that bring out the best in me.

١٢ You once said you “never guess how the final work will be, and proceed by trial and error to reach the final product.” Tell me more about that.

I tend to stray away from perfection because I find more authenticity and beauty in the process of trial and error. The element of surprise always leads to more experimentation for me, and that for me is a perfect day at the studio.

١٣ What is the most critical advice you’ve ever received?

Throughout my career, I found more use from constructive criticism. I like to grow, change and evolve. The common critique that I get the most is to produce more and to dedicate more time to my art, but what I’ve discovered is that inspiration is never forced. The fluid nature of who I am, my art and my processes make me who I am as an artist.

Rand Al-Hadethi is an art, culture, and fashion writer who approaches all her creative endeavours with a penchant for storytelling. She explores the intersection of fashion, culture, and society and sheds light on talent and cultural movements across the Middle East and the world. Rand also publishes a bi-monthly themed substack newsletter called WebWeaver™. To reach Rand, email her at rand@khamsa5.com or follow her on social media @rundoozz.
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