The two illustrators Joni Majer (originally from Germany) and Nathalie Nierengarten (originally from France) both live in Saarbrücken. Despite their different cultural backgrounds, their works are perfectly harmonised – and extremely poetic.
Their heritage is depicted in their art, some of which is displayed at Motel One Saarbrücken. The duo’s black-white illustrations portray what makes Saarbrücken’s blend of Franco-German lifestyles so special – and use typical, humorous clichés.
10 questions for Joni Majer and Nathalie Nierengarten
Pretzels and macaroons, high heels and trekking sandals: your illustrations for Motel One playfully include German and French clichés. Where did this idea come from?
Nathalie Nierengarten: We wanted to show the characteristics of both countries as well as differences between them and purposefully worked with clichés, while incorporating tongue-in-cheek poetry and humour.
Joni Majer: We let our thoughts run wild in my studio over coffee and croissants. These meetings were always extremely productive.
In your view, what is the greatest cultural difference?
N.N.: In France, people greet each other with kisses, ‘faire la bise’, as the saying goes. In Germany, people are more restrained. I’ve got used to this now and always smile at how confused the French are by this!
J.M.: The French have a talent for enjoyment, the Germans a talent for planning.
Nathalie, as a French person, what is typically German for you?
N.N.: A savoury breakfast.
And what is typically French for you as a German, Joni?
J.M.: A charming dose of anarchy.
Neither of you come from Saarbrücken. What brought you here?
J.M.: After my A levels, I spent some time in France and planned to study there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get into any of the universities, so went to the most French of all German cities and subsequently stayed. I have a good life in Saarbrücken.
N.N.: I wanted to study design, preferably in another country, so that I could also learn a foreign language. Saarbrücken therefore became my chosen city and I’ve been happily living here for 16 years.
What makes the city so special?
N.N.: Its bilingualism. I think this is a real asset. In the café, at the market, in clubs or at cultural events, an organic mixture of French and German is spoken and heard everywhere. This connects people.
J.M.: Saarbrücken is a friendly place; nobody elbows each other out of the way here. This cordial atmosphere is relaxing and provides scope for people to experiment, including at work.
Is there a place in Saarbrücken that best combines French and German attitudes to life?
N.N.: More like an occasion: when the annual Franco-German ‘Perspectives Festival’ takes place.
J.M.: The Saarbahn railway with its bilingual announcements, which actually connects the countries.
What defines your illustration style?
N.N.: I draw poetic motifs using a black rapidograph ink pen.
J.M.: Clean black-white lines with surreal subject matter.
When did you discover your style?
N.N.: I try something different every now and then, but always come back to this style; it just feels best for me, relaxed and fulfilling.
J.M.: When I stopped looking left and right and started drawing what I like.
Is there a place in Saarbrücken that always inspires you?
N.N.: Not exactly a special place, but cycling around the city really clears my head.
J.M.: Saarbrücken is right next to the forest, where I always come up with good ideas.