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Drawn To Art: Guy Stanley Philoche

Originally Posted: October 15, 2012

Danielle Boyd

Artist and philanthropist Guy Stanley Philoche. (Courtesy Photo)

Why is it that people are drawn to certain pieces of art? There must be something innately deep within that compels individuals to appreciate the aesthetic value of a particular artwork. Is this something biological, sociological or psychological? It seems to be a deliciously tailored cocktail of all our senses according to personal taste. This is exactly what the beauty of art is; the free range of having the experience and opportunity to choose what we may like or dislike. There is something that happens in the moment, an immediate reaction of how we feel upon viewing a work. In our day to day hustle and monotony, art serves as a reminder of the beauty in life that we are all striving to have just a bit more of. The best art allows us to choose the visual and emotional value on a personal level, a forcing of the mind to participate in a very organic way. The best in the art industry know how to play on these impressions to evoke an experience in the presence of their work. Here is where artist Guy Stanley Philoche steps in to play.

Guy Stanley Philoche first came to the scene and captivated our attention with his "Untitled Series." This particular collection of work made a lasting impression on the art world about a decade ago. Finding its place in the collections of some of the biggest art collectors in New York City as well as many famed celebrities, the series proved that Philoche was here to stay. As Guy continued to evolve, so did the "Untitled Series." This progression flaunted fields of color in the richest paint we have seen in quite some time. As the "Untitled Series" endured, a new series began to develop. The "Game Series," is a beautiful combination of Guy's clever ability to use contemporary subject matter paired with his ability to paint with the skill of a superior classicist. Upon my recent studio visit I had the privilege of seeing the next series of paintings by Guy Stanley Philoche. If you have been following this artist you will not be disappointed.

DB: Guy, what it is that you want to share with us about your work that you feel is not discussed?

GSP: A couple of things probably: the most important is that I always want the viewer to touch the work. I make art that people can touch. Also, I want people to sit back and really take it all in. The work is very emotion driven. I only paint at night and the reason why is because I have so many people in and out during the day looking at work. Night time is really the only time where I am at peace. Whatever emotion happened during the day I kind of let it out at night. So if it's a good day I use certain colors, if it's a bad day I use certain colors, things come out, so it's all literally very emotion driven. It would be cool if people knew that, touching the work and really feeling the textures and everything revolving around that experience is really important to me and my final piece of work

DB: The experience of touching the work really evokes something stronger out of people; it forces them to interact with the art.

GSP: Yes, it forces you to use your senses. I remember a time for me as a kid going to the MOMA and seeing these amazing paintings and all you want is to touch them. They have all this texture and you want to just touch it, so I did, and I remember the security guard saying 'You can't touch that! You can't touch that!' I vowed then there that I was going to make art that people can touch. That is why I put such a heavy layer of varnish on everything, it's important to be using all of your senses, looking, touching even smelling it you know? It's important.

DB: It connects the person more to the artist when they are touching the piece the way you would have when making it.

GSP: Exactly.

DB: I want to speak to a point you made in your NBC interview with Chuck Scarborough. You had mentioned that anyone can become a statistic and art changed your life. Since you believe that you overcame a possible stereotype, how do you view your role as an artist in society today?

GSP: You know, never judge a book by its cover. That really is a true fact. Art really did save my life and what I meant when I said I didn't want to be another statistic is that I didn't want to be the typical stereotype I could have easily been. Well you know it is just so easy to get caught up in the streets. Fall into hanging out with riff raffs and getting into to trouble. The fact of the matter was that I wasn't an athlete, I come from a whole line of athletes in my family. From my dad to my brothers, even my cousins to this day all played or play college basketball, baseball and soccer. They're all major athletes and I just wasn't. I could've easily gotten caught up in the streets, getting into trouble, having children with women who were not necessarily going to be the best mother figures but I stayed focused on a goal. And you know what; I don't think people have goals anymore, passions or dreams. Of course some do but there is a particular indifference present. It is so sad when I ask people a simple question, I'm 35 and I ask, 'Hey as a kid what did you want to be?' People typically have no idea, they just get caught up in day to day stuff and working. They don't even know what they wanted to do as kids anymore. There is a sense of freedom that you have as a kid when thinking of what you want to be when you grow up and I think it's a very honest and vulnerable choice that we make in those years.

DB: How do you think this impacts people's decisions as they go through life? Do you feel this affects people's choices in their life path and their work ethic?

Untitled Series, 2000 - 2005.

GSP: I think it's a lack of having a true work ethic, I also think that it's the media you know, everybody wants to be famous and the mass celebrity culture that we have here. It is so easy to be famous these days and everybody sees it. I really blame the media for that and I wish more celebrities would be more honest about what it takes to actually make it as far as these actors have. Sometimes it seems as if all they talk about is the fluff you know? The mansions and the parties, but they don't talk about waking up at 5 am sitting on set doing the same scene 100 times. They don't talk about any of that, it's all who are you wearing and the great parties. Stuff like that, so yes I think it is all of the above. Particularly the media is to blame for throwing this false sense of reality at us.

DB: You are involved in a lot of non-profit work. It is somewhat of a stereotype that artists can be selfish and introverted. Yet, you seem to make being involved and accessible a priority for many organizations. How does this play into the bigger picture of your life?

GSP: Well let's be a little honest, I'm definitely a little self absorbed in my own shit and everything like that. Dude, art really did save my life and it kills me when I hear that a school is closing or they need to make cutbacks in the arts. We all know it's always the first thing that goes. It's the arts, not the basketball team, not the football team, it's the art department. So anytime I can help raise awareness or help raise money or donate anything I can I make sure I do. I have been very lucky and blessed with access to a lot of people. The works been selling for me, I'm always on board for something that's a part of the bigger picture. I think it is really sad that art is the first thing that goes. It's important that we step up to do what we can when we have the ability to.

DB: I absolutely agree. Speaking of growing up and your experiences with art, what is one of your strongest memories from your childhood?

GSP: One of my finest memories was discovering that I actually had the talent to draw. I was in second grade and we were coloring, but I didn't want to color. All I really wanted to do to was to copy what the image was of the page we were supposed to be coloring, so I grabbed another sheet of paper and actually copied the picture. I remember the teacher coming up to me and saying, 'Wow, did you trace this?'And I was like, 'What does tracing mean, I don't know what that means?' And she goes, 'Wow you really know how to draw then.' That was when I realized, wow, okay, I can draw pretty well and I like it. It was something different and I really enjoyed it. It made me feel really good when I did it. I was hooked.

DB: How would you describe the way in which your work has evolved over time? Do you feel the change when it's coming?

GSP: Well the works always evolved, which is good. I think it is very important. If your work has not evolved and you're changing personally but your work isn't then there's something wrong there. I think it is very important to evolve and change through your work, even though the structure is always the same. Techniques, colors and palates are what is always evolving so yes, I love how it feels to feel the change happening. It's good for me, it's good for the work and it's good for the collectors, it's a very positive thing.

DB: Definitely. You are expanding your breadth as an artist. I saw that you recently went skydiving, what was that experience like for you?

GSP: Let me tell you something, I have done a lot of cool and amazing things in my life but, by far that was the best and coolest experience ever. The irony is that I am so scared of heights and skydiving totally got rid of that. Ripped it away. Every time I would go to a roof top party I would try to lean over but Oh my God I would get freaked out. But now I'm totally okay. Recently at a party I was like okay this is good, I got this. I totally got over my fear of heights. Doing it had nothing to do with art. It was super self serving, fun and exciting. Something different. I was high all day long off of adrenaline. It was amazing; it was something I would definitely do again in a heartbeat, no question.

DB: Go big or go home! What would you say was the best advice you have ever been given?

GSP: I've had several pieces of great advice given to me over the years. The best advice I ever got though was from, actually I'll show you. So as a kid I was really into comic books, I read comic books all the time. I was a big DC fanatic and they had this little piece of paper that I carried around with me forever in my wallet (as he rummages around his wallet, he pulls out a ragged looking piece of tiny paper, clearly put to good use) and it says "Without risk there can be no glory" and I really truly believe that. It sticks with me. Sometimes you just have to go for it, no questions just go for it. That was and is the best advice I have ever been given.

DB: I think you have given me the same advice about my career in the past couple of hours!

GSP: Listen, being an artist is nothing glamorous; it's not sexy, nothing like that. Everyone has this romantic notion about it, some idea about it but it isn't any of that. I don't recommend being an artist to anyone, not to my worst enemies because it takes a lot out of you. Look, when you get that calling you get that calling, you have to do it. People have tried to ignore it. I know plenty of people who got the calling who went to become doctors and lawyers and are super successful, but the calling is still there and they just walk away from everything. I'm happy and I love what I do but I got a calling in second grade, it can be a curse because you cannot ignore it, good luck trying to attempt something else, because you can not.

DB: That is what I always say! We are blessed with a natural ability and talent and have an appreciation for these abilities, but it really does control your decisions. My response is typically, 'You have no idea. It doesn't let you do anything else.'

GSP: Just imagine being that young and knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life you know? You have these blinders on and you make huge sacrifices, I have made huge sacrifices to get where I am, to make this little name that I have. And I am so thankful for that don't get me wrong. But people don't realize that sometimes, the sacrifices that are made. People would say oh you're so lucky you know what you want to do with your life, but you're young and it's like being a horse with those blinders on again, you know what you want and you have your eyes on the prize. Nothing is going to get in the way of that. I've ruined relationships with women, I've ruined relationships with my family, my friends, all because I was so self-absorbed and focused on the bigger picture of my career. It is easy for that to happen. It was nothing personal, this is what I do this is what I enjoy. Some people do understand and some people don't. If you are dating someone who doesn't understand it who may not be in the industry who works an average 9-5 might not get it sometimes you know? They don't get that you might rather stay up painting in the middle of the night instead of going out and it can hurt a relationship. So it's important people understand it is how my career works.

DB: How do you keep yourself grounded amidst all of the excitement around your work in this industry?

GSP: Because in a heart-beat, all of this can be taken away. In a heartbeat, just like that. This is New York City; people love to see you fail. I don't take anything for granted. I know that what I have accomplished is pretty cool, it is amazing for me, but I cannot take it for granted. That is what I am aware of. I am extremely appreciative of every little thing; I am appreciative of my clients, I am appreciative of the people that like the work, the people that love the work. People have been supporting the work and it means everything to me. I just do a reality check.

Untitled Series, 2006 - 2007.

DB: Do you think New York plays a role in keeping you in check?

GSP: New York is grimy at times. Living in New York is like living in an abusive relationship. One minute she's kicking you down, telling you that you're nothing while throwing your stuff outside on the curb. The next minute she's like baby I'm sorry give me one more chance! That is what keeps it all going. Everyone is trying to keep up here. At the end of the day for me it is all about being in the MOMA. That is what it is all about.

DB: How was your experience in art school? What role did school have on your development?

GSP: Well, The untitled series is about composition, it is about color, structure and some people don't realize this but it's also somewhat religious based. Believe it or not I was classically trained. I was going to be doing portraits for judges and CEO's that was the goal. I took an abstract course and fell in love with it. I wasn't taking the class for anything serious, I was there for shits and giggles thinking, okay whatever. We were told on the first day we had to bring in an object. Any object. The Professor said he wanted everyone to go home and really think of an object and bring it in. The plan for the class was to spend the whole semester on this one object, focusing on breaking it down into its simplest form. I was just like whatever dude, I'm going to do portraits for judges and CEO's one day and make a lot of money. So the next day of course I completely forgot about the object. So I run to my car and I'm thinking Oh my God, I have to find an object, I have to find an object. So I look and what is hanging is on my windshield are these Rosary Beads my Mom gave me when I graduated the 8th grade, they were blessed and she put them in my car and they're supposed to be for protection and what not. So I'm looking and I spot these beads and I think okay let's do this. So that is actually how the 'Untitled Series' started. It just came about and I continued breaking my object down to the simplest form, the absolute simplest form. So I would say faith definitely played a part of the development of the series. Next thing you know I fell in love with modern and contemporary art.

DB: It is interesting you say that. When I spoke with people regarding your work at Art Hampton, I would describe you as a purist painter because it is so easy to get lost in your paint because you know the medium so well.

GSP: Absolutely for sure, I am a painter's painter. No question. I think that you need to know the basics first, then once you know the basics you put your own umph to it you know? I'm one of those painters where what you see is what you get, that is why I call it the 'Untitled Series' because people see different things. There are painters out there where the description or the title of the work doesn't necessarily match the work. How they describe the work doesn't match what you actually see, some people just like hearing themselves talk and they're actually horrible painters but they can talk a good game. Then when you see their work you're like, dude it just doesn't add up at all. I'm very simple and I live very simply and the work is I think very simple in a way but it's not. It also has lots of textures and colors and certain things to it that create so much more.

DB: Interesting now that we know you were classically trained. When viewing your work it is obvious that you paint with a technique that is unparalleled. For something contemporary and non-objective it is so classically well done.

GSP: Thank you. At the end of the day it is all about making beautiful paintings. You know, it's funny, I got this email just the other day from a buyer of mine. He had acquired something a while ago, he is this big powerful lawyer and for him in his everyday it is all about closing the deal. He has this crazy, crazy life and he sends me this beautiful email saying, 'Ever since I bought your painting I can just walk into my office and I am on the go all the time but all I have to do is look up. I see your paintings and they calm me for that minute or two in my day and I just want to say thank you." That was probably the coolest thing ever. I was just like Wow that is amazing. That is what this is all about, this is what I want for my work to do. I am not trying to do art for shock value, political statements or anything like that. I just want to make beautiful paintings.

DB: Final thoughts?

GSP: It's about making beautiful paintings, calms the nerves. Especially in New York, we are such a go, go, go City. As cliché as it may sound no one does stop and smell the roses anymore, so to make work that can have an individual do that, to have the freedom to experience that peace or happiness or whatever it may evoke is the measurement of the success of the work.

Come enjoy the "Untitled Series," at Arthur T. Kalaher Fine Art: 28E Jobs Lane, Southampton, NY. The show will be on display through October 15, 2012.




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