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Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Jean-Philippe Delhomme has been isolated at home without access to his usual studio circumstances. Instead of capturing his usual subjects and snapshots of the city, the artist has been creating expressive still lifes based on his surroundings—like Parisian rooftops, stacks of books, vases filled with flowers, and the boulevard below his windows. Utilizing this time to grow his practice, Delhomme has also taken to sharing his daily works on Instagram.
Delhomme’s upcoming exhibition at Perrotin Paris, “Los Angeles Language,” has been rescheduled to open May 23. Postponed as a result of COVID-19, his first show with the gallery (which features a suite of oil paintings, created over an extensive stay in the U.S.) now represents something new—a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Whitewall spoke to Delhomme to learn about the works he’s been creating and what he’s most looking forward to when the stay at home orders have been lifted.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
JEAN-PHILIPPE DELHOMME: I’m fine, but after 53 days, there is a bit of tiredness of circling within one’s own interior. It’s a bit like a performance. Beuys in a cage: but the coyote [is] the inner self and the instability of mind.
WW: How have you been spending your time, aside from making art?
JPD: I don’t like to do things for spending time. I mainly think of things related to my work, reading books on art, even listening to music is somehow about being in a good mood and the right energy to paint or draw or have some ideas. I do yoga every day at noon, which I only do two or three times a week in normal times.
WW: What have you been cooking?
JPD: I had a pizza base delivered from a restaurants whole seller, so just had to add ingredients to imitate a pizza place menu. This was the best dinner.
The Italian wine was a bit too strong, quite like a big hug from a good old friend.
WW: What’s something from this new way of life that you hope to continue once the pandemic has passed, and something you’re most looking forward to when social distancing is no longer necessary?
JPD: I discovered nothing from this new way of life, or anything that I’d like to continue which I didn’t do before. More than anything, I’m much looking forward to having sitters coming back to my studio to paint portraits.
Travelling again—I miss my New York studio, and the time spent in L.A. these last two years when I was working on the paintings which are going to be in my show “Los Angeles Language” at Perrotin Paris.
Inviting friends for dinner at my home and kissing them to say hello and goodbye without this mandatory social distancing we have to cope with, I guess still for a while.
And just being able to walk in a café and have an espresso in the morning, which I used to do around my Paris studio, or casually meet up with a friend at one of these big brasseries in Montparnasse, like the Select where I often go. It is crazy to think it probably never closed for a single day since the beginning of the 20th century, and now seeing these days the stacks of chairs against the locked windows.
WW: We’re loving your recent posts on Instagram. Can you tell us about those works?
JPD: Thank you! On the first day of the lock down, there was quite a lot of emotion, and a background of general anxiety. A lot of people had left the neighborhood, which was not the case in [all] Paris areas where people don’t have the choice. We felt a bit like the ones who stayed on the boat when most passengers had jumped on the rafts. The only vehicles were frequent ambulances with sirens on going full speed. As the boulevard is in between hospitals, it went on like this for the first two weeks.
Anyway, at the end of this first day, I thought, I’m going to draw and paint everyday for my own sake, and also as a way to participate to the collective effort, and send a sign to others by posting it on Instagram. I started with a drawing of the boulevard below from my balcony. And kept on doing this—painting the outside, the boulevard, the interior, by day and night.
But these are, in fact, the same paintings and inspirations that I do every day at the studio. It is just that my possibilities of subject were around me, in a reduced circle.
My work for all these last years, from my New York studio to Paris, is all about painting from life, landscapes, still lifes of things in the studio, and doing portraits by having people sitting. I mostly kept on doing this, but in a reduced area. As everyone knows, the more you look, the more you see, and eventually find new subjects where you thought you already had it all.
The deli down on the boulevard, which had never sold flowers—the rather tough guys running it were not really into flowers—started selling tulips and it turned out to be such a success that they almost turned into a flower shop. My wife bought a lot of them and peonies, lilacs, and flowers became my main sitters.
WW: Tell us how your practice has changed since beginning isolation.
JPD: I took essential painting stuff from my studio on the morning of the lock down and worked in my apartment. I had more canvas and turpentine delivered after a while, and a few other supplies. The deliveries took more time, and the canvas workshop worked with a reduced team, but it seemed fantastic that somebody would still deliver and do the job, and I’m every grateful to this people.
WW: What’s giving you hope and inspiration currently?
JPD: My show. which was postponed, is finally installed today and hopefully will open on May 23. The gallery is doing, at the same time, a series of shows with other galleries under the title “Restons Unis” (“Let’s Stay United”). And I think it is also an opportunity to extend communication and chances to meet up and look at others’ work among artists. I think we need to communicate, keep on meeting—with reasonable care—and not just in the virtual and fantasmatic world of social media and fight the general sense that any other person is a potential health threat. My inspiration is to continue what I’m doing and keep on painting from life.