introducing the crown prince of pop art: philip colbert and the rodnik band
If Andy Warhol and Katy Perry had a love child (amidst claims that the father was actually Marcel Duchamp) he’d be a lot like Philip Colbert. The Willy Wonka of Wearable Art, Philip sees humour in the banal, and satire in the commonplace, which is why...
Conceived ironically as a pop band, and taking inspiration from artists who have throughout history tried to challenge the very means by which we define art, Philip's clothing label, The Rodnik Band, blurs the boundaries between music, fashion and art. Expanding his pop-filled world even further, last month Philip moved his sequined creations from the body to the gallery wall, with an exhibition at Gazelli Art House, entitled Sequin Pop. We caught up with the Crown Prince of Pop Art to talk about life with the band.
Where did the idea for a pop band come?
I was inspired by Gilbert and George's singing sculptures performance. I felt the idea of a band was more accessible and exciting than the traditional idea of presenting oneself as a fashion designer. Then I thought: actually why not make some music and make a performance with the clothes? Why not rap about the clothes and make a spoof fashion/music/art band? It's a bit different from the usual scene of a designer bowing at the end of a catwalk. Then I thought I could take the band/brand on the road and crack the US :)
How would you define your collections? Are they conceptual objects? Wearable art? Or pieces of clothing fashioned after famous artworks?
I think of myself as a Pop artist who runs an art brand. For me an art brand is a very modern development of Pop Art. It takes Pop into new and engaging dimensions. I make clothes, art, furniture, and music - everything I can. And it's all part of my Pop world. If you look at commercial artists like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, they are art brands; they have all sorts of commercial product ranges, which support their artistic vision.
How important is humour and satire to you as an artist?
For me satire and humour are essential! They make us more self-aware; they shake the cage of our condition, and can illuminate the self-important systems we create that often lose sight of the weak ground they are built on.
What is it about Pop Art that people can relate to?
It's often very direct and striking. It communicates directly with accessible references. It's often very positive in spirit. It's the most powerful relevant visual language of our time!
Pop Art has long been interpreted as a criticism of consumerism and conformity, but also as something that denies lofty meaning -typically associated with the art that came before it - is this something you've applied to your own work or does the significance of Pop Art for you lie in its aesthetics and wit?
I definitely like to parody the force of conformity and consumerism, and like to throw my ideas like a spanner into the machine. I liked the very physical and real effect when I took a model to a very fancy red carpet US Vogue event wearing a sequin urinal dress. The Vogue editors were not sure whether I was taking the piss out of the event or if it was a work of art. It felt like Pop Punk!
How has the work of Marcel Duchamp influenced you?
Marcel Duchamp is the grand father of Pop! He laid the conceptual foundations that Warhol etc built on. I have been very influenced by him, from recycling his iconic fountain into a wearable dress as mentioned above to the general influence he has had on my thinking. He was very aware of the mechanics and limitations of the subject of art and made very thought provoking and humorous work. I was inspired by seeing Richard Hamilton's show at Tate and seeing some Duchampian concepts developed in his work.
Where did the idea for Sequin Pop come from?
Over the years I had been painting scenes from the Pop world I was creating with the brand. It's sort of a mix between my dialogue with Pop Art of the past and my own philosophy and perspective of today. I had at first thought about doing a show of the paintings. However although the visual references were connected, the surface of the painting felt too flat and disconnected from my clothing work; in general I think painting feels a bit dead for Pop, and I decided to start remaking the pictures with the same technique of sequin work and embroidery that I had been using for my high-end sequin wearable art pieces. It suddenly made the pictures sparkle; it made them POP, and embedded the brand philosophy and handwriting within the pictures. The sequins have the effect of attention grabbing and dazzling; the powerful superficial effects of fashion but with the language of pop art.
Was there a precise moment when you decided you wanted to make works of art for the wall as opposed to the body?
Not really, I have always been engaged in a dialogue with Pop. And I liked to walk a line between the genres. For me this is the creative space where new ideas are possible. Although it's harder for some people to place you, it's good to be in an unconventional space. From presenting the wearable art dresses in galleries to making paintings with traditionally fashion/clothing techniques and putting them on the wall, for me it's all part of the same spirit.
If you could rescue one famous artwork from a fire or a flood what would it be and why?
Probably the Mona Lisa as it would be fun to add to it's elaborate history. The man who saved the Mona Lisa, sounds like it could be a film, no?
What's next for The Rodnik Band?
Just got some new band members - Harriet Verney. Henry Hudson, Nimrod Kamer, and Will Pine - and we just got back from a gig in Vienna. The energy was great! Having some amazing creative spirits join forces gave me a new enthusiasm for the band concept. We started to create some more experimental music. Perhaps there's more life in the band yet :) thinking a tour of Japan could be next :)
Text Tish Weinstock
Image courtesy Phil Colbert