Jean Christophe Philippi
When we are confronted with Jean-Christophe Philippi’s total body of work, one world does not appear, but many. The simultaneousness of their construction and the diversity of traces at play in them, from paintings of prehistoric caves to Henri Michaux’s ink drawings, render irrelevant the very notion of art history in its observation of what is known as chronological order. Philippi often takes up again a first work as if this first picture required making the other invisible presences that it contains appear. He thereby creates a movement that may sometimes reveal itself to be like the work itself and these clusters of drawings and paintings, like clusters of stars whose light reaches us only after the artist’s death, evoke a universe where time is space, the space of paper often vast in its length or height, so much so that it took a cathedral to house one of his exhibits. The word universe leads naturally to the Big Bang. We almost always find in writing about the work of artists an obsession with the origin. This obsession ignores what is already there in each of us, the mystery of access to the human memory inside us and that is part of what we call the gift. So, to not be confronted with this mystery, we look outside the artist, to a relative, a teacher and later, another artist; we utter the magic word: influence. When we only seek in an artist’s work the influence of another, we are seeking to avoid a uniqueness that would disturb us. It is possible that a relative, a teacher or another artist, or even another work, carried the traces seeking to be transmitted and the artist had inside themself the means to recapture these traces and make them a starting point to create new ones. That was doubtless the way it was with the stained-glass windows of the Strasbourg cathedral, which Philippi tells us “dazzled” him, the word creating a screen against the inner work of processing that occurs during such an experience. Any of Jean-Christophe Philippi’s drawings or paintings gives me the impression that the Big Bang and its creative expansion, that inaccessible inner event, barely tapped into and never dried up, is repeated each time that he takes a pencil or a paintbrush onto paper like dice or that he presses his naked hands dipped in ink or paint onto it. He says that he begins blindly, and then highlights. He doesn’t say “doodles” but a good many of his drawings where bodies and faces are buried at the heart of a proliferation of curved lines evoke this word that speaks of the common birth of drawing and writing that often continue to intertwine in Philippi’s work. But people who have had to clear an undergrowth invaded by thorns the height of humans can also recognize the undergrowth in the doodling and understand that their gaze must first become accustomed to the vegetation to catch a glimpse of the outlines of bodies and faces arising from this matrix. Others will think that the artist began by making this vegetation proliferate to take to the brush far from the authorities who occupy the field of art, thereby expanding the need of the inner secret that is also that of the artist’s solitude in his studio. I realize I have not yet spoken of another world in Jean-Christophe Philippi’s creative output, the one where recumbent statues align, whose hieratic quality has ties to that of painting and statuary from antiquity. Their number makes one think of a crowd as is found in many of his drawings, but isolated in its sarcophagus of stained glass, each of these aligned recumbent statues is alone: Adam before any Eve and before any other man, or simply the artist who must always come back to life from the death in which the completed work continues to enclose them.