Balázs Bíri is conspicuously colourful, the contrast with his pictures, which are strictly black-and-white, could not be greater. No fifty shades of grey. No colours. The paintings are, however, full of motifs.
Jiimi paints in monochrome, but the result is never boring. His brand “Nobody likes the Spaceman” is mostly characterised by stars and action heroes, but he also paints special requests and never shies away from a challenge. He does all this to complement his “day job” at one of the newer Budapest hostels, the Bazár.
His name is Balázs, “but everyone just calls me Jiimi, even my parents”, he laughs. He moved to Budapest from his home town Tiszaújváros three years ago. Since then he has called the capital home, and his job is his second home. “I am an animator in the hostel, but that does not mean that I jump around people and invite them to join games. We just want people to feel that they are being hosted by friends.”
Musician and artist
It is good to be Jiimi’s guest: he smiles a lot and he prepares enthusiastically for parties and events in “his” hostel. “To be honest, I am not working the night shift, but I spend a lot of time there anyway. My colleagues are like friends and I come to like the guests quickly, too, so every now and then I will spend two or three days in a row at the hostel.”
Breaking into the hospitality industry was more of an accident than a carefully executed plan. “I have tried all possible jobs. I was, for example, a host at the airport, but wearing a suit the whole day was not for me.” Then a girlfriend suggested the hostel, where he first worked on the reception desk. What Jiimi likes most about his current job is that “it is like working abroad – because we have so many foreign guests, but I can still come home every evening to my apartment in Budapest.”
When this jack-of-all-trades is not in the hostel, he is touring as a musician and artist. He stays true to his style: the physical resemblance to the scandal rocker Pete Doherty can be heard in his music as well, because he plays mostly British Pop from the 1990s – from Oasis to Arctic Monkeys. Jiimi laughs mischievously and admits that they mostly play covers, but “we are working on own songs”.
Jiimi’s third passion – besides music and playing host – is painting. He specialises in monochromes because he “simply cannot handle colours”. His career as an artist also happened by chance: “I had a lot of free time between two jobs in two different hotels. As I was walking past a hobby store, a canvas caught my eye. I bought it along with some piants, and I just began.”
His first painting included a few characters from the Star Wars Saga. “My friends were totally enthusiastic and bought me canvases and I painted for them.” One of his friends gave Jiimi the task of painting Ray Charles – but only in black and white. “This was my awakening, when I realised that you can do almost anything with this combination, I do not need any colours at all.” Jiimi’s pictures are not only photographically precise, but extremely interesting and he is always looking for new challenges. He even decorated Espresso Embassy in Arany János utca, but he is still “happy to take on new tasks from friends and people I know.”