April 15, 2007

5:1 with Philippe Jestin

by Ebony March

I once read a quote from some famous art pundit who said that the true success of an artist is not measured in the dividends reaped from the sale of his work, but from his ability to capture an audience; to draw one in from the mere strength of his work. This is a tall order, but artist Philippe Jestin has managed to do just that.

Born and raised in France, Jestin came to the United States in 1990, after an academic stint at the prestigious Sarbonne in Paris. He honed his craft, while languishing in the doldrums of suburban New York. In 1995, he packed up and relocated to one of the great art meccas of the U.S.: San Francisco. There, he lives with his wife.

It's no doubt that the rich subculture and bohemian vibe of his adopted hometown are what flavor his work. His primary medium is sculpture. Each piece has amazing life to it. To those with no formal art training, you get the feeling from looking at each work that Jestin has absorbed (subliminally or otherwise) all the heat and swagger the streets. His pieces are chock-full of attitude and style. The art is somewhat reminiscent of Urban graffitti, "skateboard culture" and tag-ups. Each piece gives the impression that someone like Mike Mills took his cues from Jestin to create all those famous graphic designs. Everything is so unique and vibrant.

But snooty pontificating aside: the guy AND his art are just f*cking cool. There's no two ways about it. I was so blown away by him as an artist, that I immediately tracked him down and interviewed him.

1) Where does your inspiration come from?

P.J.: I cannot tell you where it comes from, but I have noticed how I get inspired. It is like a moment of directed attention bringing form to a vision. And then let’s go to work. One of those moments came to me in the shower I was looking at the water forming pools on the ceramic tiles and then I saw Antarctica as a pool of water , you know global melting...well I went to work and produced a work out of this idea later called “soothpool”. So for inspiration a shower is a good start.

2) The shower, eh? That must be some damn good water up there in San Fran. Now tell me: How would you describe your work to someone with little or no understanding of art, its history, and its concepts?

P.J.:Well, it is mostly carved drawings filled with colored resin creating translucent relief on different surfaces. In the process a lot of work goes to create an object with the least traces of my involvement. It is very much changing with light, it looks abstract when you can’t figure it out and sometimes there is nothing to figure out. For those who have no understanding of art, it is good, just start feeling. I like to see it this way “ I think therefore I am not so sure”. Rened

3) What's been the most difficult aspect of your pursuit of art as your life's work? I mean, being an artist is tough no matter what facet of art you create.

In the past the most difficult time was to detach myself from all sorts of belief about art, what you can do or you cannot do, all those things they put in your head in art school and cultivated with friends. It was only

when I allowed myself to be that I found my way. Then it was all a matter of focus and determination.

4) What is the biggest contribution that you feel you and your contemporaries are currently

making on the [art] world at large?

P.J.: To tell you now my contribution and that of other cotemporaries artists on the world will certainly be presumptuous. Hopefully by becoming aware of our true nature and realizing this in a creative way we can bring signals or messages to other. Being creative helps me live in the moment and I certainly would love to see a world full of happy creative peoples.

5) Any aversion to someday working in Play-Doh?

P.J.: Now that you mentioned it, I have not done any modeling work in sometimes. And since it feels good to work with that sort of materials it is a good reminder, I will put a post-it in the studio. thank you...

[Now comes the time in the interview when I answer one of Philippe's questions. After all, it's not called "5:1" for nothin'!]

P.J.: Anything you get obsessive about on a daily basis...attached to some daily ritual or activity??

me: Oh, man, Philippe. You have just tapped into my secret shame. You see, I'm super neurotic about EVERYTHING. But I guess the one thing that I'm particularly O.C.D. about lately is the internet. I'm obsessed. I'll wake up in the morning, and before I do anything else, I go STRAIGHT to my computer: bladder full, breath stinky, and stomach growling for some breakfast, I check my myspace page(s), blog, and then google people I went to high school with, just to make sure that no one's gotten more successful than me overnight. Hey...I TRY to be a nice person, but it's a real struggle sometimes...

Sensing the Path 2006

Resin, Wood and Paint

Posted by Ebony March on April 15, 2007 at 11:59 PM in ebony.


I've been collecting art many years and encountered Philippe during Open Studios. I was enchanted by his wry low key attitude and fresh, active range of art mastery... sculptures free standing and mobiles plus the resin pieces which are coolly abstract while representational. Also, Philippe mixes casual energy with meticulous technique. I have bought several works (the dried resin fruit grid is awesome!) and will be back for more...soon! Go see for yourself.

Posted by: Rockhaus | May 14, 2007 at 06:36 PM

You're so right! He sent me two pins fashioned from his mobiles (You know, the lips constructed from resin?). They were so beautiful and screamed perfection. I am in awe of him. I'm glad others are as well. Good on you!

Posted by: Ebony | May 14, 2007 at 08:12 PM

le travail de Philippe Jestin autour du corps de l'humain vivant et en mouvement me touche particulièrement. Par sa maitrise de la forme de la couleur de la matière il donne à voir des oeuvres claires tout à la fois lisibles et chargées d'évocations profondes. Regarder "à travers" le corps visible c'est ce que propose Philippe Jestin avec humour et philosophie. Faut-il avouer que l'image qu'il nous propose de l'homme nous remplit de bonheur et d'espoir?

Posted by: FLY de Latour | May 18, 2007 at 06:11 AM