Jean-Charles de Castelbajac: Phantoms of Eden

The Cartoon-Inspired Paintings of Fashion’s King of Pop

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac’s whimsical collections have encompassed Lego sunglasses, Obama-print dresses and outfits for Pope John Paul II; now the designer and artist showcases a new series of paintings on the Caribbean island of St. Barts. Inspired by its infamous boutique hotel, Eden Rock, his paintings are bright and bold, with references to cartoon characters alongside the iconography of death, religion and revolution. Earlier in his career, de Castelbajac befriended Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Malcolm McLaren. But in contrast to the knowing, urban work of his late friends, Castelbajac’s Phantoms of Eden is a response to a tropical, hedonistic playground. “In my paintings I combine elements of normality, elements of history, elements of pop culture,” he says. “I combine them to create accidents and inspire a kind of mystery in the eye of the spectator.”

What drew you to Eden Rock, St. Barts?
Jean-Charles de Castelbajac:
Eden Rock is a place where a lot has happened, from its discovery by Rémy De Haenen, his friendship with Howard Hughes, and Greta Garbo and the fact that treasure sank there in the 17th Century. It is a place where the past encounters the contemporary, and that clash is extremely inspiring.
 
Cartoon characters feature several times in Phantoms of Eden. What was the thinking behind them?
JCDC
: The subjects I chose, like the Disney or Charles Schulz characters, are like little ghosts embodying what our childhood was. I also like primary colors. They seem very happy and childish, but they are a reference to the history of painting. They are the colors of Calder, of Picasso, of Mondrian, but they are also linked to medieval flags and coats of arms.

Your work in both art and fashion often combines high art with popular culture. What is it about this combination that interests you?
JCDC:
I don’t see the difference between taking a picture for Instagram or starting work on a new painting that I spend weeks on. In art, the main preoccupation is to crystalize new images. I like the power of images in our society—I love the fact that they can appear very fast, but I also love that you can spend seven days on one painting in the hope that it will be treasured in the future.

Phantoms of Eden is on show at Eden Rock Gallery through August 4, 2013, supported by the Association Art Saint Barth

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Conversations (1)

  • tintoy
    Brilliantly bold and simple but with deep references. At last, a return to painting. Not a whiff of conceptualism in sight either! If only I could see the exhibition now! m-dawson.co.uk
    • Posted By tintoy
    • July 24, 2013 at 4:51AM
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