Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Artist of the Week

Tony Philippou

One of the more important roles of the artist throughout history is to take the unknown and the abstract and filter it through a brush onto the canvas. Most people, religious or not, are familiar with the traditional image of Jesus. It is an image that has been handed down generation after generation without question or concern. However, it is virtually impossible to confirm exactly how Jesus looked. Where that may not be an issue for organized religion, the artist's mind starts wonder and invent, creating his own personal image of Jesus or Judas or anything other figure or image. The artist has the ability to create their own visual reality.

One artist lending his personal interpretation to classic images is the Bronx, NY native Tony Philippou. Tony has participate in several group and solo shows across the country in the last two years, and now he has joined with two other talented artists (Zach Johnsen and Marion Bolognesi) to form The Trinity. His work takes an honest and explosive approach to genre of religious themed art.

Recently, Tony was kind enough to answer a few of our questions regarding his work.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Tony Philippou (TP): John Blaze.... But seriously I have several genres that I usually draw inspiration from that find themselves in my work. Usually I tend to have strong design elements present along with the figure, so It's more like a contemporary Art Nouveau. I try to incorporate people and trends I feel best signify the time and style of what I'm goin for.

OA: Your Jeezus Piece paintings are fascinating on so many levels, where did this concept originate? What do the rings signify?
TP: Oddly enough I'm not very religious, I'm Puerto Rican and Greek which means I have some Baptist and Greek Orthodox influences that have been around all my life. Without getting to much into my personal views I wanted to add an iller perspective to this genre. Some of my favorite paintings have been of Jesus, and if you think about it he really was the first Super-Hero, no other man has been depicted through time with such a wide spectrum of fantastical imagery that is supposed to be real. Realistically no one alive can say they know Jesus....I mean actually know him like you go to his crib and play Madden while he turns water into wine and oregano into chronic. I felt it would be more familiar and real to see him as somebody from the block, or somebody you might see in passing so he tends to be different heights, weights, and from different cultural backgrounds.

The Rings around the head....well that's his Halo. Part of what I find so amazing about religious paintings is the symbolism so of course I had to Bless him with a shiny new exploding Halo and Sacred Heart to go off into this new world of ours.

OA: I saw a picture of you working on a painting, and there was a picture taped next the piece that you were using as starting point or reference. Is this how all your work is created? Where do you find the photos that you use?
TP: I always use references, I usually find stuff online but I have a fondness for which is really amazing and time consuming but they usually have a great selection of photos to choose from. Then there's your men's and Women's fashion magazines but I prefer to take my own reference shots when I can. Nothing can beat the opportunity to control your composition. Once I find or setup the images I want to use I will sometimes work out the intricacies in a thumbnail or just go straight to putting my sketch down on whatever surface I'm working on.

OA: Do you have a specific color palette that you use? Do certain colors carry different meanings or feelings in your work, and more specifically in the rings?
TP: As far as palette is concerned I guess I have a tendency to use certain colors. I like to use an assortment of Earth tones- raw umber, burnt umber to keep stuff looking natural and maintain a good middle ground. I use my violets or blues to either liven up or set back some of my colors. With my yellows and reds I try to give off a lot of intense lighting. But as of recently my palette has switched up a bit now that I have been doing some Pieces of Judas, just a tad bit darker.

As for the rings, It's basically a game time decision because it's usually the last thing I do to the piece. But generally speaking I tend to go with a cool vs warm color combo with some gold...this is for Jeezus. For Judas I've been mixing it up a bit more to work with the silver that I have in his halo.

OA: You recently joined forces with two fellow New York artists to form "The Trinity". The three of you have a show coming up in LA, but is this going to be more then just a one time coming together for a show? What is your vision for The Trinity?
TP: The Trinity ( Zach Johnsen, Marion Bolognesi and Myself) came about at our first meeting for the show. Of course since I use a religious theme I pitched an idea to the group for us to work on some collaborative work for the show and then we all just brainstormed between brunch and Mojitos and came up with a really interesting approach to the Holy Trinity. Mind you none of us are Jeesus Freaks but we all were amped to be able to use this theme together and go our separated ways with it. Shoot if another gallery wants the Trinity up in there spot rockin it out all they need do is Holla at one of us.

OA: What's next for Tony Philippou?
TP: "The Trinity" Show @ Thinkspace Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. February 8th 2008.
"The Four Horseman" Show @ The Pale Horse Gallery, St. Petersburg, Fl March 15th 2008.
"Group Show" @ The Hive Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. August 2008.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
TP: No Coffee, Red Bull & Vodkas all night long till my heart explodes. And Mojitos...mine especially, but if your in NYC got to Cabanas on 61st st & 3rd ave there pretty good there too.

OA: Do you listen to music while painting? Who are a few of your favorites while painting and in general?
TP: Music is a must while painting. I listen to a lot of hip-hop and rock so it goes a lil something like this.

1.Arctic Monkeys- Still Take You Home
2.The Hives- Well All Right!
3.The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Kiss Kiss
4.GrinderMan- Electric Alice
5.Lupe Fiasco- Streets on Fire
6.White Stripes- Little Cream Soda
7.John Frusciante- Inside A Break
8.Lil Weezy- Upgrade You
9.Nirvana Live- Lake on Fire
10.Redman- Suicide
11.The Mars Volta- Drunkship of Lanterns
12.Queens of The Stone Age- Battery Acid

The Mars Volta easily have to be one of my favorite bands and I will be seeing them live January 14th here in NYC.

For more information Tony Philippou you can visit his website or check out his myspace page. Also, visit the Trinity blog for an inside look at how they are preparing for their upcoming show on Feb 8th.

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