Kids dive into the underwater art of Jean Jullien

December 10, 2023 BY

Spawning creativity: French artist Jean Jullien is holding a show just for children at the National Gallery of Victoria. Photo: SUPPLIED

NOISE and chaos at the National Gallery of Victoria is just fine with French artist Jean Jullien.

At the launch of RIFIFI: Jean Jullien for Kids, his first exhibition in Australia, there’s plenty of both, as well as more fish than anyone can count.

Children are invited to put on a fish costume and step into an ocean maze, to collect and dispose of ocean plastic, make fish drawings, and lounge around on furniture in the shape of sea creatures.

They can also jump on trigger-pads on the floor, to set off a series of underwater sounds.

“I think to be able to go to the museum and scream and have music is great,” Jullien said.

Gallery visitor, eight-year-old Emily, had drawn a rainbow fish using squiggles and blocks of colour, and recommended the sit-back-and-relax starfish chairs.

Her classmate Harvey, also eight, was somewhat less discerning and loved just about everything in the exhibition.

“It’s pretty cool, I love all the colours, the sea lion, the starfish, I love the fish costume – except it falls off,” he said.

Jullien is from a small fishing village in Brittany, and many of the fish images in the show began as sketches of his father’s fishing catch.

A much-loved illustrator, who has exhibited around the world, his art is inspired by the beach, surfing, and the marine environment.

Jullien said he hopes the installation will help get kids interested in the ocean, which shouldn’t be too hard a task.

“Any kind of fish is fantastical and magical, because it’s coming from another land that you don’t have access to,” he said.

Rififi is a play on words derived from an old-fashioned French word for rumble, as well as sounding like the word reef in English.

The kid’s show is part of the Triennial at NGV International, with other parts of the major summer exhibition already attracting tourists outside the St Kilda Road gallery.

A giant banner by Yoko Ono reading “I LOVE YOU EARTH” has been affixed to one wall of the building, while Really Good, a towering thumbs-up sculpture from UK artist David Shrigley with a disproportionately tall thumb, has been installed at the entrance.

RIFIFI: Jean Jullien for Kids is part of the Triennial at NGV International.