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About the WorkWhimsical, with an exquisite technique and subtle chromatic flourishes, the universe of a Philippe Bertho painting is a metaphysical three-ring circus. Music plays, plates spin, and errant souls ensnared in cardboard boxes are as likely to sail through the Bertho Universe with nimble feats of visual strength.
Always a student of the arts as well as an artist, Bertho himself has observed that the techniques he perfected through formal art education in Rheims, France are the tools with which he creates images that appear real but exist only in the disorienting and provocative realism that are utterly his own. Through his art, he creates a visual story that just the viewer can complete using the imagination and sense of humor.
Bertho’s characters seem to emerge from nowhere, and they feed our curiosity to see what might lie on the other side of the artist’s stylishly alluring portals. Bertho’s work offers tantalizing evidence of a vast source of artistic inspiration. From Norman Rockwell to the trompe l’oiel style painters whose canvases “fool the eye” into believing that what is perceived is real. Bertho’s paintings and prints abound with influences from more contemporary sources as well.
Incorporating a kind of spiritual realm, recurring elements in many of Bertho’s paintings include white, blue, bubbles and circles. These may represent the soul, existing but devoid of form. The colors and the bubbles seem to create an added dimension, both physically and emotionally. In Femme Sous Emprise (loosely translated as ‘Woman Under Pressure”) we see new elements to Bertho’s work. The curlicued pink substance appears to be extruded from a propulsion device, which keeps the characters platform afloat. The artist, a woman, seems to be under pressure- you might be too, with your model shouting at you to hurry up! Never mind that at any moment, you both might tumble into an abyss if your platform teeters a little bit too much. The characters in Bertho’s work don’t ever seem to take notice of their precarious situations. They do what they do – paint read, dance – as of the environment around them was as comfortable and solid as a couch in the living room. “Femme Sous Emprise” is a 27 x 45 – inch hand-signed serigraph on gesso board created in 2005.
About the Artist
Philippe Bertho is classically trained having enrolled in art school in Reims, France in the early 1990s. There, he spent considerable time studying decorative trompe l’oeil painting. Tromp l’oeil (“to fool the eye”) is a technique used by artists to create the illusion of a 3rd dimension on a flat surface. It is obvious from Bertho’s artwork that he fools much more than the eye…he draws one in by the heart and also quite frequently by the funny bone. Despite his ability to perfectly render reproductions of masterworks, Bertho was drawn to the world of fantasy and illusion. As his style developed, he drew inspiration from renowned contemporary trompe-l’oeil artist, Jacques Poirier. In his early work, Bertho exhibited ingenuity by including unusual materials in his paintings. Employing objects that other’s found useless – corrugated iron, rusted metal boxes, old light bulbs – he was fascinated with his ability to bring his art alive by creating dimension – either by the addition of these items directly onto his canvas or later through the technique of trompe l’oeil.