Garbage men are present in our everyday lives, we see them constantly on the streets, but do we actually see them? This question played itself out in the creative mind of the 35-year-old Belgian street artist Jaune from Brussels. From his own experience as a sanitation worker Jaune noticed that although he performed an important public service in flashy fluorescent clothing, he was for many people just an object that belongs to the street scene to which no one pays attention. Most people ignored him, hardly ever said hello or had a chat with him. This striking fact that garbage collectors are eye-catching but invisible to the human eye, put him into action.

As a stencil artist and urban interventionist, Jaune developed in 2011 the concept of the little garbage men who are causing havoc in the city. He decided to free these characters from their role of keeping order in the city and put them in funny absurd adventures. Each work carries an important symbolic message, but the starting point is undoubtedly intended as a visual joke. In this way, he wants to make the sanitation workers stand out in the street scene.

Using stencils and spray paint, he applies the men to the wall, often using the urban environment as a backdrop for his image. In 2017 Jaune created four artworks in the framework of the new campaign for Public Cleanliness of the City of Brussels. The intention is to present the garbage collectors as true heroes of the day in an artistic way. It is the artist’s intention that you make your own interpretation of his works, so keep on reading if you want to know more about my view of his creations.

© Station 16 Gallery

1. Contre vents et marées

“Against all odds” is the first artwork by Jaun. It is situated at the “Oppemstraat 45”, right next to the Roadworks Department of the City of Brussels (Green Zone Unit). The title is actually a French expression originating from the navy. It means that sailors defied the natural obstacles of wind and opposing tides to move their boats forward when they were at sea. Jaune here relates the meaning of this proverb to the persistence of garbage collectors. Every day, they have to deal with an extremely large amount of trash, most of which ends up on the streets as a result of illegal dumping. In the mural you can see them using hoovers, brooms and shovels to try to stop the great sea wave of garbage bags, banana peels and cigarettes.

2. Déplacer des montagnes

You can find the second stencil artwork at the “Arteveldestraat 137”, next to the office of the Public Cleansing Department of the City of Brussels. The mural shows a teeny-tiny garbage man trying to lift a huge green chair with all his might in cooperation with a group of pigeons. The pigeons are the animals of the street and therefore the comrades of the sanitation workers. With this, the artist wants to demonstrate that the garbage collectors can do a lot of work, can handle many tasks however difficult they may be. As the saying goes, they can move mountains, hence the name of the work of art.

3. Discret mais efficace

The third work of art is located at the intersection of the “Korte Beenhouwerstraat” and the “Grasmarkt” nearby the “Grote Markt” in the heart of Brussels. The artwork is called “Discreet but efficient” in English. By this name Jaune means that garbage men are modest but do make a real difference. The mural shows the opposite of discreet to make the meaning of the word stand out. The sanitation workers are hunting for garbage bags on the back of wild cats. They are fighting to collect these bags no matter what cost. Using their brooms as weapons, they go on the attack. Miauw!

4. Le charme de l’uniforme

“The charm of the uniform” is the last creation of Jaune in the framework of the new campaign for Public Cleanliness of the City of Brussels. It is the only work that is not found in the city of Brussels, but in the “Leopold I-straat 109” in Laeken. This work has a straightforward meaning, simply to put the garbage collectors as persons in the spotlight. You can compare the mural to a photo shoot where the sanitation workers proudly pose like models, but instead of on a catwalk they pose between garbage bags. In this way Jaune wants to bring out the salience of the uniform.

Jaune is an upcoming talent that you should definitely keep an eye on. Also in Ostend, his garbage men cause playful chaos in the streets, but they are actually popping up all over the world. You can find his works for example in France, Norway, the United States and Colombia. A famous international artist in the making if you ask me!

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