John-Paul Philippe is a multi-talented painter and designer who divides his time between his Soho work studio, bucolic upstate home and roster of clients around the world. His distinctively modernist painting style put him on the map, and John-Paul now references this clean, graphic style in projects as diverse as furniture design, murals, large scale sculpture and even a private chapel in the Dominican Republic. John-Paul has also collaborated with Barneys New York on design components for a dozen stores, both in the US and Japan.
John-Paul’s latest collaboration with west elm successfully meshes his original and whimsical look with the west elm aesthetic in the form of various chic and covetable new pieces including pillows, sculptures and framed drawings.
Here’s some good stuff that’s been influencing John-Paul lately:
1. Charles Burchfield and the show of his work at the Whitney Heat Wave In a Swamp
Charles’ work embodies its own idiosyncratic design sense and I respond to the pronounced rhythmic and lyrical qualities. When his exhibit debuted at the Whitney, I did not attend right away even though I had been anticipating it for about a year. My tardiness was due to the fact that I was in the middle of producing a body of work for a show and I feared being unduly influenced by Burchfield’s vision. I spend part of my time in a remote corner of northwestern Connecticut where I have a cabin. The woods and streambeds are evocative of Burchfield. I often see nature as if it is filtered through his sensibility.
John Paul Philippe’s own barn and garden
2. Naturalistic gardening and landscaping, particularly the work of Dan Pearson
I think to take gardening seriously you have to be passionate about it. It seems that no matter how small or seemingly casual one’s plot might be there is always some detail that requires attention, whether it is a vine that needs tying up or a crop of okra that needs harvesting. To me gardening is one of the most involving pursuits.
For me, gardening is similar in process to creating art in the sense that one is striving for a certain “look” or feel. Painting for me is about arranging forms and colors and the same goes for creating a garden or landscape. It is easy to get lost in the moment and forget about the universe you inhabit.
3. Water fowl
Herons, Cranes, etc. have been haunting my work for a while now. I have a water meadow and encounter many of these birds. I always am transfixed by their stillness when they are stalking prey, coupled, of course with their amazing elongated forms and plumage.
I am fixated on the attenuation of their necks, beaks and legs. They have inspired me to elongate my forms. For actual examples of where these birds have inspired in my art, nothing could be more clear then the new series of murals I recently completed for the Fred’s Restaurant in Barneys Madison Avenue and in Fred’s Scottsdale.
More than twenty years ago I was visiting the artist Jack Pearson and he told me he had discovered this guy named “Disfarmer” that had a monograph…I thought “what a strange name.”
It isn’t necessary to know of the lore surrounding his life although that does add to his appeal for me, the fact that he was an outsider. I grew up in Oklahoma, which is right next to where he was working in Arkansas. Recently, I was in Tulsa and spent a day driving around on back roads. It is still to this day hard not to be reminded of his photos when you see some of the folk there toiling on the land or just sunning themselves against a building.
5. Early airport architecture and design
This era was such a high point for ambitious designs. I am amazed by the fact that the The TWA Terminal at JFK by Eero Saarinen (pictured above) was even built. It is so visionary and perfect…and strange. I grew up in this era, modernism, free-form, abstract notions of space all made an impression on me.
Sadly, the terminal is not used and if more terminals and transit spaces were of this caliber and not just shopping malls and food courts and corporate clutter, my own experience of travel would be much enhanced. We’re all sensitive to the spaces we move through, whether aware of it or not.