Featured Artist Interview: Philippe Blanchard

Philippe Blanchard is a visual artist and animator from Toronto. Reflective of Bauhaus textile designers such as Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers, Philippe's work explores the rootedness of the human visual experience and perception, and aids our understanding of the experience and response to repeat and pattern. Currently an educator at OCAD University in Toronto, Philippe's work is primarily installation and video based, with bold tri-colored screen-printed wallpaper on 3D shapes that reflect a similar quality as the 2D wallpaper. The movement and repeating pattern is virtually exhibited with GIFs and animation. Check out our interview with Philippe and his process below.

PB: What is a bit of your background as an artist? What inspired you to take the direction of your work that you're at currently?

Philippe: I studied film production and printmaking as an undergrad at Concordia University in Montreal. I traveled to the Middle East and Latin America and worked freelance for a bit. Afterward, I settled in Toronto, where I worked in commercial animation for many years at a studio called Head Gear Animation. I decided to focus more on my art practice, so I went to OCAD University in Toronto for my MFA. I wanted to combine printmaking and animation in an installation format in order to create a kind of "expanded animation" experience. That's when I started to play with light and screen-printed inks to generate the illusion of motion. I now teach animation and digital art at OCAD.

PB: What inspires your current aesthetic? What are the concepts behind it?

Philippe: My current aesthetic is inspired by many things and artists. I go back to architecture such as art deco or pre-columbian and back to design such as the Bauhaus. I am fascinated by Bauhaus textile artists like Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers. Musically, I've been listening to a lot of music that is heavily pattern based like Bach, Reich, Terry Riley, house music and early electronic music.

The concepts behind my art relate to some of the work around early installation art or happenings in the 60s. These concepts are about a language that is based on an immediate experience and perception, and something that can't really translate through mechanical reproduction. I use patterns both in space (2d visual patterns) and time (loops, repetitions in colors of light). I am interested in how both create a sense of non-place and non-time, and a suspension of awareness of what's outside of the work. A lot of my work attempts a return to early moving image technologies and the burgeoning visual culture and mass entertainment of the late 19th century, when animation was a self-consciously about the optical illusion of motion, a form of magic show.

I like the idea that moving images are based on a strict pattern of 24 or 30 images per second. The images change but the rhythm is constant.

PB: How does technology and the internet inform and inspire your work?

Philippe: I try to create work that is not to be experienced through technology, even if it is created by it. Dissatisfied by clunky displays and projection devices, I've found lighting to be a more direct means to create the experience of moving images. Digital technology is a constant in my work, especially through my choice of red, green and blue. They are primary colors of light but also basic building blocks of most digital imagery we look at.


PB: How do your 2D and 3D pieces work together?

Philippe: Most of my recent work involves 2D screen-printed wallpaper that is placed onto 3d shapes and walls. Recently, I moved to other approaches, such as fabric printing. I also print flat color on paper and then shred it to create color "rugs".

PB: Describe some of your commercial work. How does doing commercial work interact with your aesthetic?

Philippe: My commercial work was based on the combination of different techniques or media in unpredictable ways. My recent installation work strives to combine different approaches in a novel way. It proposes an awareness of the disciplines themselves in the process, where they start and end, their essence, and their ontology.

PB: What is the connection you have with the colors you use often in your latest work?

Philippe: They are the primaries of additive color and light. This means they are separate on the color spectrum of light, and when red light is turned on, blue or green objects look black. That allows me to animate by turning red, green and blue lights on in sequence. The trick is to find matching ink pigments that respond to the light in a predictable way. My connection to them is somewhat utilitarian. They are basic colors. I don't choose them because I like them or they resonate with me on an emotional level. It's strictly about saturation and purity of pigments. I like that it's not a personal thing, although I do think of a return to other colors for other projects.

PB: What are your current favorite motifs, shapes, styles or colors to use right now?

Philippe: My favorite shapes are based on a square grid and variations of that, such as chevrons, stripes, steps and zigzags. I've moved towards hand painting all of my patterns after experimentation with various forms of digital generation of patterns. This includes software like Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator and Cinema 4D. I have also moved to use accidental or found patterns, which I will photograph. I recently returned from an exhibition in Mexico City and was interested in the various textures of masonry, for example.


PB: How do you see the development of your work in the future?

Philippe: I am exploring textiles. I started to screen-print on cotton, which I'll push further. I am going to collaborate with a digital jacquard weaving specialist this year to generate RGB textiles. I'm also interested in other forms of fabric structure, such as knitting, appliqué and string. We'll see where this goes, but I think I will create tent like structures, costumes for performances and masks.

To view more of Philippe's work check out www.philippeblanchard.com and http://philippeblanchard.tumblr.com/