An Interview with Pop Artist and Designer Philip Colbert in his Columbia Road Studio, London.

 
Portrait by Stefan Simchowitz  

Portrait by Stefan Simchowitz  

 

Pop artist and fashion designer Philip Colbert and I first met on a stairwell at a glitter-soaked David Bowie party. Our subsequent interview took place inside his iconic yellow submarine studio on a wintry morning on Columbia Road, East London. The space was filled with his pop art designs taking the form of furniture, fashion pieces and many other weird and wonderful objects. As I settled in with my green tea, I deduced that it was best described as floating somewhere between Andy Warhol’s factory and a Beatles album cover on an acid trip.

Supported by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Lady Gaga and described by the journalist Andre Leon Talley as, “the godson of Warhol” Colbert’s bold and witty designs are known for walking a humorous line between fashion and art. Philip has already exhibited his work worldwide from Art Basel to Frieze London, Art16 and Tate Modern. When the artist isn’t working in his yellow submarine, he’s at the centre London’s contemporary art scene wearing lobster or popcorn-printed suits alongside his equally talented wife the artist and filmmaker Charlotte Colbert. 

Philip’s interest in fashion began with a business importing Russian textiles, which eventually evolved into the iconic Rodnik Band fashion label. A unique amalgamation of music, art and fashion his brand combines hand-made prints, lino printing techniques and a broad spectrum of bold colours.  He works with different mediums as he creates wearable artworks and sculptures made from neon and steel, as well as embroidering canvases with sequins. His biggest collaborators include Dover Street Market, Colette and Disney. 

  Influenced by modern art, Colbert has rendered some of the world’s most iconic artworks from Salvador Dali’s Lobster Telephone to Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain as sequin-encrusted dresses.  Most likely wearing his signature lobster or popcorn-printed suits, Colbert will spend the coming months travelling between upcoming exhibitions at Space Gallery, St Bart’s and Miami Art Basel, as well as overseeing the construction of his sculpture house in Los Angeles. Let's hear more about how he blurs the boundaries between the worlds of art, fashion and design. 

 

   Large Popcorn, Sequin on Canvas (2014)

   Large Popcorn, Sequin on Canvas (2014)

 

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion?

It was probably when I discovered the subject of philosophy on a dusty old bookshelf. 

 

What piece of your work would you like to be remembered for?

I would like to think that i'm still working towards this point, so hopefully it's going to be good. Generally I feel that the creative process is a constant development or a constant state of becoming. Overall I would simply like to be remembered for having positive energy and making people smile. 

 

If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?

Ancient Rome would be interesting.   

 

                                           Lobster Chair (2015)

                                           Lobster Chair (2015)

 

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?

 Beauty for me is wisdom materialised in eternal form.  

 

Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?

In terms of books I still love Fredrich Nietzche's Thus spoke Zarathustra which had a mind-blowing effect on me as a teenager. Film wise I love The Shining by Stanley Kubrick. At the moment I am also inspired by the paintings of the American artist Peter Saul.  

 

What is your greatest indulgence in life?

Art, because I can get lost in it for hours everyday. 

 

  Splat Game 01, Beads & Sequin on Canvas (2016)

  Splat Game 01, Beads & Sequin on Canvas (2016)

 

What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?

 Charlie Chaplin

Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?

Yes I believe that the digital world can offer an amazing global platform for creatives like nothing we have ever known. 

 

What do you wish every child were taught?

Magic. 

Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?

Of course. From the beginning I very much questioned the stereotypical approach to creativity and that undoubtedly pushed me in the direction I've now taken. I believe that it can be very productive to question why you do what you do. It is a distilling process and it clarifies one's self-belief.  

 

  Smoking Scene, Sequin on Canvas (2014)

  Smoking Scene, Sequin on Canvas (2014)

 

What is your favourite museum or art gallery and why?

I love the Tate Modern, because there's so much to see and I love walking across the bridge to get there. I don't cross the river Thames enough, but there's an amazing view from it. 

 

Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?

The sculptor Alexander Calder, because I love his work. 

 

What is your daily routine when working?

I drink a lot of green tea. 

 

             Croissant Face Sculpture (2015)

             Croissant Face Sculpture (2015)

 

What has been your most inspiring travel experience?

I loved travelling around Cuba, because it's a very soulful and beautiful place. 

 

What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?

Anyone can do anything.   

 

Why do you love what you do?

It's a job whereby dreaming can become a reality. 

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com