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Philippe Halaburda is a French born artist living and working in the USA. His work, inspired by principles of psychogeography, invites the viewer to discover the subconscious feelings, dreams, and experiences in the natural and urban landscapes around them. This month, Melissa Chambers spoke to him from his home in Newburgh, NY.
MC: Describe your current surroundings, where are you right now?
PH: My studio is on the first floor of an old spring factory. I can see nature outside through two large windows. The space is not big, but I don’t have to share it, so things remain undisturbed when I create new pieces of art. The factory is in Newburgh, a town in New York State. I moved here from New York during the pandemic. I’d gotten married and we decided to leave the city to dedicate ourselves to a better quality of life, closer to nature and water. To the Hudson River. We live in the factory where I rent my studio. Newburgh has the largest historic district in New York state, preserved landmarks like Washington's Headquarters, the David Crawford House, and the New York State Armory. The town has a rough past, but Newburgh is undergoing a slow revitalization. We are part of it I think, and contribute at our scale, through participation in art events that involve the community.
MC: Introduce us to Scaalenne 5, our featured artwork for this issue.
PH: ‘Scaalene 5’ is a recent artwork on paper, made this summer. I started to draw and paint triangles as a geometric base for this series. There are 4 other artworks that go with it. It was only after I finished them that I realized I was using triangles as a recurring form because of a link with the scalene muscles. The scalene muscles are the three paired muscles found on each side of our neck.They form the posterior triangle of the neck and act as accessory muscles of respiration. They allow a neck flexion and collectively help with inspiration by lifting our ribs. I usually paint on the floor and noticed the importance of my respiration during creative time. Subconsciously (or consciously) these muscles were influencing me.
MC: Your work explores intersections between interior or psychic, and exterior, shared landscapes, you talk about this in terms of ‘geography’ and ‘mapping.’ Can you tell us how this interest developed and how it fits into your overall practice?
PH: I studied philosophy and read about psychogeography when I was young. The French philosopher Guy Debord defined psychogeography as "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” As an artist, I had never really related to this philosophy until I moved to New York. I was already working by following a psychogeographic drifting process but I’d never tried to put a word to it. Exploring urban or natural environments amplifies our personal connections to place. All this sensed information can be consciously organized or not. I decided to work on the unconscious side of our perception to paint its impacts on our mindset.
I named this free mode of exploration 'geographic abstraction'.
One of the psychogeographic practices I follow is the ‘dérive’. It is a method of drifting through space to explore how urban environments are constructed, as well as how they make us feel. Through a drifting process, I show how thinking can be mapped and how spatial experience brings together personal narratives and collective psychology. I think being able to sense the emotions of those around you, and to connect deeply with others is a superpower.
MC: What does your inner landscape look like?
PH: It’s changing each day, even in each moment of the day. I feel my inner landscape is like a field where ideas grow naturally. I am becoming a dad this month for the first time too, and I can feel that already affecting my creative flow and my desire to make art even more.
MC: Finish this sentence, artists today are responsible for…
PH: Seeing the invisible, reunifying human links and sharing it with the world.
MC: Name something you love, and why.
PH: I love soccer. I play it and watch it too. I love this game because it’s like a mirror of life and human behaviors. Over 90 minutes, collective and individual components and trajectories match or not. When a goal is scored, it's the result of all of these associated elements. The power of the mind pushes players to exceed their skill. The team is here for you, and you are helping the team to be better. This balance is fragile and it can be applied in life. The philosophy of sports is something that has always inspired me as an artist and as a human. Never give up. Even if we think everything is going wrong at a moment in our life, there will always be a chance to make it better if we put the right mental energy into it.
MC: Who is a writer or thinker that influences your work?
PH: Anne Dufourmantelle is a thinker that helped and guided me in some of my major choices. The book “Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living” influenced my personal path at a period when I needed to be guided. Her philosophical work focuses on risk taking. Reading her definitely helped me move from France to the USA in 2016 when I decided to drop everything and be fully dedicated to my art.
MC: If you could time travel and be an artist at any other place or time in history when would it be and why?
PH: I think I will choose the beginning of the last century – 1900 until 1920. This period when artists like Cezanne, Matisse, Monet, Picasso and Kandisky rejected the classic codes of academic painting to become the pioneers of European abstract art.
MC: What does the word ‘ecology’ mean to you?
PH: It’s a good question because I always try to suggest the theme of ‘ecology’ without using the word when explaining the approach in my art. The science of ecology studies interactions between individual organisms and their environments – I see this mirrored in the methods and concepts that I draw on as the source of my art.
What advice would you give to yourself as a younger artist?
Trust yourself more as an artist – not about the artwork and the aesthetic aspect of it but more about the personality of the artist. I tend to be introverted and probably if my nature was more communicative, I would have provoked other events in my career. I have no regrets, just a feeling that sometimes I have missed opportunities simply because I didn’t dare to ask for them.
PHILIPPE HALABURDA is a French / American artist working in Newburgh, NY. His work uses principals of psychogeography in order to explore the emotional connection between us and our surroundings. He has exhibited throughout Europe and in the USA. WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM
(Image credits: mixed media on paper from top to bottom, L-R: The Ninth Svviizdjann, Scaalenne 5, NRDLL AIEE, Surface of Brresniitz, The Soller Situation, Metaaverss, Aerial Maghhaa, Layyout Suubur, Ghhorbaa in the room 1)