When I first saw Philippe Halaburda’s website, I smiled. I knew that I had to chat with him. His abstract paintings http://halaburda.com are so fresh, innovative and even childlike yet also very sophisticated. This French artist is very clear about his process and what works for him. Here’s our cool chat.
“… Of course, many of people don’t need art or buy art, but I believe that for some people, it is like a balance in their life. As an artist, art seems like therapy for me. It brings me balance and the ability to face the hard realities of the world …”
MICHAEL: Philippe, I absolutely love your paintings. To me, they look like maps and pictures of landscapes that are taken from high up in an airplane. I see lots of fragments and pieces of things. What inspires you to create these paintings?
PHILIPPE: I paint in a very natural way. That means for me, staying spontaneous and totally active-minded. I think that I create paintings or drawings to tell my own story, to express my own feelings about life, about love, about relationships and about our world. Since the beginning, I noticed that people felt the same things as me, like if I touched something universal.
I wanted to take people by their hand and make them think about their own situation without oppressing them. I need to keep this connection with them, but never think about it when I am starting a new painting. Ultimately, I paint for myself. Once the painting is finished, I see that other people feel good or bad emotions because of the colors, the shapes, the details.
In a very practical way, I paint on the ground and put my canvas on the floor. That’s why you have this sensation of high up. For me, it looks like a map, but a mind map, my mind map at one precise moment. I put all my frustrations or desires on the canvas. I want to also use it as a picture- dictionary of myself, with a very personal and graphic language.
I paint every day. It is very natural for me. I don’t have any pain to do it; it’s just pleasure to be able to express my darkness or to shine personality with paintings and drawings. I used to work in a figurative way about six years ago, thinking that represented people or that it was easier to express feelings. But with time, my painting has exploded and now, with abstraction, I see that I have a lot of things to express. It now seems to have no end.
MICHAEL: I get the feeling that painting gives you childlike joy. Does it? Did you paint back when you were a child?
PHILIPPE: Yes, I am very happy, naive and expressive during the act of creation. As an adult, it’s as if my deep child part of me has the power to create art, to develop concepts, to mix the colors and to dare original drawings.
I want to be in the light spirit, I search to break all the rules of grow-up life and be the most natural as possible. Make a painting is an act of pleasure, a mix between my intellect and subconscious. During the time I was a child, I was not very interested about drawings, like a common boy. I started to discover my talent during my 17th birthday. I had knee surgery and stayed for several months without moving or doing sport. Then, I started drawing, writing comics and I discovered that I really enjoy doing that. It was the beginning of my life as an artist.
MICHAEL: Wow. Do you live in France and Santa Fe? Where are you now? How does your environment inspire you?
PHILIPPE: I don’t live in Santa Fe. My agent actually lives there and I have 25 to 30 canvases there. I am currently living in the south of France, near Marseille. But I am thinking about changing the place where I live, maybe to the United States or another country. I think that I have been very influenced by the lightness of this part of France. Nature is very clear and sunlight very shining here, a lot of painters as Picasso and Cezanne worked here in the past. I have been also influenced by the landscapes and the nature. That’s why I use only primary colors with a large presence and white backgrounds or I may not touch the canvas. I want my works to bring light and put colors in the foreground.
MICHAEL: So many people see the work of abstract artists and they say, "My four year old can do that!" What do you think about this?
PHILIPPE: I think, “Hey, Then why you don’t try to do it?”
MICHAEL: Ha! Ha! Exactly.
PHILIPPE: For me, the act of painting abstract works is indeed like going back to this age of innocence, of naivety, of childhood. I need to have fun and I’m not really thinking when I am working. Of course, I am still thinking because I am an adult and not a child anymore. I need to be in this mood of creation based on spontaneity and on truth. Children draw without cheating, they go straight away to the point that they want to show or express.
As an artist, I research this natural and common way. With some elementary materials, I try to succeed at each painting. Staying spontaneous and sincere asks for a lot of unconscious work. That means that I am looking for my child part in the depth of myself with each new creation. This is one way to touch universal human nature.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the contemporary art world and art market? So many living artists are struggling while Picasso and Rothko and other dead, famous artists continue to have big shows and make lots of money.
PHILIPPE: I believe that there’s a place for every artist in the art world and art market. Regarding the quality of work, I can imagine that you can find your way to create, to show your art, to exhibit and of course to sell it. From my side, it’s quite different because my art did not belong to a defined art style. I mean that when I approached some galleries or art dealers, they recognized the quality of my work, but they did not want to take the risk to show it. However, my art is very appreciated by many people. I can sale it by myself with no difficulties. A lot or people tell me that I will be famous when I am dead. It’s a pretty common idea, but I am thinking that you can earn money with your art during your life.
The point is, maybe you have to work doing other things, but it is a possible way to do and to succeed. It is also a lot of work and it should take several decades to improve my art. I try to stay the most authentic with that and to do sincerely the best art that I can do. Following my own way, I believe that one day, my creations will be recognized regarding their true
MICHAEL: Finally Philippe, What is the point of art? Most people won't ever buy art. They say they don't need art, so why should anyone care?
PHILIPPE: I think art is an excellent way to escape reality. It can bring you to discover yourself, your environment. It shows you what happens around you.
Art is a focus of our actual society. Of course, many of people don’t need art or buy art, but I believe that for some people, it is like a balance in their life. As an artist, art seems like therapy for me. It brings me balance and the ability to face the hard realities of the world. Art is a door toward childhood, toward pleasure with background introspection. It is like an open book to understand human nature and to consider our society. Some people need to do that to handle life, some others don’t. Everyone is free to choose his way to escape or face reality.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. Thanks Philippe. Very cool chat.
Check out Philippe Halaburda at http://halaburda.com.