Jesús Javier Jaime

Jesús Javier Jaime and Oscar Melgar, Untitled (Kingsley United FC bus), 2006

Jesús Javier Jaime and Oscar Melgar, Untitled (Kingsley United FC bus), 2006

Jesús Javier Jaime (b. 1968, Panama City) obtained a degree in automotive mechanics in 1980. In 1988 he completed his studies in graphic design at the Ganexa Institute of Fine Arts in Panama City. He began painting and decorating buses with a artist-friend Oscar Melgar in 1989. Through the years, he has been involved with several jobs from different fields. Bus painting is the only task that has remained constant in his life. 

In Panama, public buses are called 'red devils' because their speed is often reckless and many of them appear completely covered by airbrush paintings with predominantly vibrant hues. These paintings are thematically distributer over the bus's body following a strict canon: on the back: an iconic figure (ranging from catholic virgins to pop singers and sports stars); on top, an Alpine or Oriental landscape: on the windows, the names of drivers past and present girlfriends; on the sides. Proverbs and witty phrases, and so on, all surrounded by proliferating baroque ornamentation. Although ruled by a fixed structure, painters such as Melgar find room to express their imagination via creative designs and their distinctive rendering of portraits, phrases and scenes.

Buses are also painted in other countries, including Haiti, Indie and Philippines, but Panamanian 'red devils' are the most extreme case of vernacular horror vacui. Each driver decides the motifs he wants for his vehicle and pays for them: the more profuse the bus is painted, the prouder its driver. a consistent style has ben established, which combines pop art and baroque poetics, images and words. However, each painter has his personal touch, techniques and reputation.

In a city in which over 40 percent of the population does not have a car, buses are an integral part of daily life. The commercial bus companies track the arterial roads in and out of the city centre, whereas the community transport buses service the hard-to-reach communities.

Artists in Panama work closely with bus owner and drivers to choose images with which to decorate their buses. In Liverpool, passengers from both commercial services and Liverpool's Community Transport Network were invited to propose the icons, landscapes and heroes with which to decorate their buses.

Their suggestions were interpreted and translated by Jesús Javier Jaime and Oscar Melgar in their own distinctive visual language. The highly decorated buses travelled around the city, their personal and individual designs offering a stark contrast to the corporate advertisements usually emblazoning the city's public transport. The identity of each bus carried a resonance for its passenger community and as they travelled their paths and routes crossed and intertwined.

Jesús Javier Jaime at Liverpool Biennial 2006

Jesús Javier Jaime and Oscar Melgar
Untitled , 2006
Artist-Painted Buses
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2006

Supported by

Northwest Regional Development Agency
Visiting Arts
Arts and Business New Partners
Stagecoach Merseyside
Kingsley United Football Club
Liverpool Community Transport
South Central Community Transport
Merseyside Deaf Association
Seel Street Studios Limited
Auto Paint and Panel Ltd
Get Gassed, Mobile Vehicle air-conditioning specialist
HMG paints LTD