The Lionheart Five: An Interview with Philippe Halaburda

The Lionheart Gallery
Aug 18, 2016 3:16PM

Five questions we ask every Lionheart Gallery artist.

French artist Philippe Halaburda hails from Aix-en-Provence, and the playful vibrant colors in his paintings echo the bright primary hues and sunlight of this region. Recently, he has been creating work in New York City, which he credits with lending more minimalism and deeper tones to his palette. His art can be found in collections, homes, and offices throughout Europe, North America, Canada, and Australia.  

Although abstract, Halaburda’s paintings explore the universal themes of love, personal crisis, beauty, and death, playing out in sprawling and imaginary urban maps and landscapes. The artist sees his canvases as springboards for building mental architecture. Exploring interactions between shapes and lines, he forms “art topographies” that explore social tensions and relationships, instead of addresses and landmarks.  

1) Name one of your most defining moments as an artist. 

Philippe Halaburda: Maybe the first time an American gallery director selected me to be an artist in his gallery. It was in 2012, in Santa Fe. A very well-established gallery director gave credibility and respectability to my art. When we met, he had a laudatory speech on the quality of my painting. I was very impressed, knowing that in the art market his word was recognized and valued. To me, it was one of the most defining moments as artist. It was also my first contact with the American art world. That was four years ago; I have since moved here to the U.S.

2) Do you collect anything? 

PH: Not really, I don’t have the soul of a collector, but I would love to start. For example, my ideal would be to exchange art pieces, photos, sculptures, or paintings directly with other artists. The fact that I don’t have any collections right now is certainly because I want to keep this sense of freedom in my life and be able to move easily and without too many constraints to a new city or a new country.

3) If you could choose anyone—and we mean anyone—whom would you pick as a mentor? 

PH: I would reply Jean-Michel Basquiat. Foremost for his art, mainly for the way he was painting. To me, he was so free in his mind that he showed me a very uncomplex way to create art, like having fun during the creative process. Like a child. I will add Picasso for the labor aspect of his art career. The fact that he worked hard every day of the year impresses me, as well as the way he kept looking for new things as artist. Finally, I will add Cy Twombly

4) What's the most indispensable item in your studio? 

PH: The light. I mean the natural light. I need that in my studio. Space is important, too, but the essential part remains the natural light, daylight if possible. I use it as reference in my creations through the colors. I also like to keep blank parts of canvas or paper to make a reference to the light research. Logically, that means there must also be a window. I always put some windows in my art: they open toward new things, new steps, and new elements.

5) Tell us about one piece of art in this exhibition. You might describe your inspiration, your process, the title, what the work signifies to you…

PH: I have chosen the painting called Kid Atlaas Meriko from 2013.

This large artwork is about my first impressions of America as someone who was discovering this country. My first venue in the U.S. was in December 2012, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At this period, I was living in the South of France, near Aix-en-Provence. I have done some large pieces specifically for the U.S. art market, and this painting is one of them. It was painted by memory from my first trip in New Mexico. I was impressed with the countryside. I already knew a bit about it because of Western movies I’d seen in France and also because of a famous French comic series called “Lieutenant Blueberry” – I used to read this comic when I was a teenager and most of the story happens in New Mexico.

Kid Atlaas Meriko, Philippe Halaburda, 2013

I like to work by memory, trying to make art in an unconscious way. I made this painting in the summer of 2013, working outside while trying to focus on New Mexico landscapes. You will see some bright colors, but the main colors are closer to a desertlike and dry environment.

I create my own title by combining words, or a form of deconstruction. The title Kid Atlaas Meriko is about me, the “kid”; “Meriko” for America; and “Atlaas” for an allusion to the god who carries on his shoulder the celestial sphere, which is for me my entire implication with my art. This painting is literally telling my own story: a French artist who carries and brings his art to the USA.


Philippe Halaburda's "Imaginary Mindscapes" exhibition is on view at the Lionheart Gallery,  July 10-Sept. 1, 2016. 


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