Interview with Philipp Rudolf Humm
Known primarily for his large-format narrative paintings and sculpture work exploring the contradictions and idiosyncrasies of contemporary life, Philipp Rudolf Humm is an artist with a long history of skillfully manipulating the iconography of popular culture. A philosopher by training, Humm began image making at a young age until, like Gauguin before him, a career in business took him away from his own practice and saw him apply his talents instead to roles such as CEO of Vodafone and Amazon.
On returning to his first passion, Humm’s contemporary practice brought together the intellectual rigour of a trained philosopher with the cynical eye of one used to deploying the iconography of commercial imagery. Through stories based on history and on societal critique, Humm dissects concepts of authenticity, facticity, absurdity, time and existence. Figures familiar from advertising, film and celebrity culture people canvases that themselves reference icons of classical art; Botticelli’s Venus, Manet’s Olympia, Fouquet’s Melun Diptych Madonna. Compositions are defined by both their origins in Heideggerian existentialist and metaphysical thinking, and by their rendering in a hard-edged, Pop Art style that saw critic Edward Lucie-Smith label Humm as the first ‘Pop-Expressionist’.
Philipp Rudolf Humm was born in 1959 in Germany. He studied Philosophy at Saarland University, Germany, then Business at Saarland University and IMD in Switzerland and on returning to his art practice studied at London’s Fine Art Studio School and Florence’s Academy of Art. Solo shows of his work have taken place at London’s Riflemaker Gallery, Hix and at an exclusive event at Saatchi and PURE London. He has been a finalist for the Ashurst, Circle Art, Sunny Art Centre and Broadway Art Festival, and his work has been included in group shows in London (Walton Fine Arts), Germany (Sans Titre, Werkhallen) and Venice (Palazzo Ca’Zanardi). In 2018 his work will be shown at the Museum of Nevada in Las Vegas and at the NYC and LA art fairs.
Humm’s artwork has been widely reviewed by the art and general press with his first show covered on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.
Humm currently lives and works in London.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started in the arts? and your first experience in art making?
My name is Philipp Humm and I have been been painting from a young age. However I studied Philosophy and specialized on Existentialists and Plato, which is still the conceptual foundation for my work as an artist. Through internships, I got drawn into business, did an MBA and started a successful business career as manager and entrepreneur, specializing in the Tech industry. I continued to practice art in all my free time. In 2012 I intensified my art practice to 30-40 hours/week and in 2015 quit my CEO position and became full-time artist. In the meantime I completed a formal education in life painting and life sculpting at the London Fine Arts Studios and the Florence Academy of Arts.
How would you describe yourself and your artwork?
I am a narrative figurative painter and sculptor. So my artwork is about stories, staging, history, social critique and relationships. I touch on existentialist topics of authenticity, facticity, absurdity, time and the meaning of life and of mankind.
Edward Lucie Smith, the reputable art critique described my art as "Pop Expressionism".
Partly like (US) Pop Art I use irony/parody, hard edge compositions, vivid colours and recycle images of popular and mass culture incl. iconic imagery from Old Masters and contrary to Pop Art my art is representational, figurative and narrative
Like (German) Expressionism I present the world from a subjective perspective, staging it with surreal elements - to evoke ideas. Contrary to Expressionism,I focuses less on emotions and more on my philosophical framework
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from history - trying to understand its relevance for us, from observations of society and from reading. Travel is a great source of inspiration as is music and visiting every museum and gallery I can get to. Inspiration can come from the most obscure places or moments.
What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?
My art should provoke the viewer and be food for thought and debate. So in a way it is cerebral. At the same time, it is multi layered, symbolic and ambiguous and thus leads to emotional reactions. The colors are strong yet balanced and harmonious.
When do you know that an artwork is finished?
It is never finished. Once I feel that I can't improve the drawing, nor the color palette, I stop touching a piece. That being said, I might come back to the similar composition and try a new interpretation.
What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far?
The most exciting moment was when 20 of my artworks were featured in the Saatchi gallery with over 500 people attending.
How long does it take to produce one work?
It can take years from an idea to a final painting or sculpture. The actual creation is much faster and takes anywhere between one week and a few months. As I work with oil and clay, I work on different pieces in parallel.
What exciting projects are you working on right now? Can you share some of the future plans for your artworks?
I am working on a contemporary interpretation of a theater play using life staging and multi media artworks. It is a massive time investment that will keep me busy for the next 3 years
Do you have any upcoming events or exhibitions we should know about?
I have quite a few exhibitions lined up in the US. In January Los Angeles Art Fair, in February my first museum exhibition in Las Vegas and in May a solo exhibition with my sculptures and an Art Fair in NYC.So quite a busy start into 2018!
Where do you see your art going in five years?
Hopefully into more hands of art lovers and collectors and to establish my self in the US market and in Germany, in addition to the UK.