Philippe Hérard



 Born in 1966, Philippe Hérard, a prolific painter, has been creating poetic, fanciful, absurd and dreamlike work for over 35 years that surprises as much as it seduces. Through unexpected imagery, he translates his deep questions about Man and the society that shapes him.


Each painting by Philippe Hérard reflects universal themes such as solitude, the desire to escape, daydreaming, thus expressing a subtle quest for balance between collective identity and self-esteem. With his own artistic codes, Philippe Hérard draws our imagination into a new reality, freed from the absurd constraints which disturb as much as they fascinate, offering representations outside of conventions.


 The artist stages himself in an offbeat imagery that abounds in his mind drawn from his daily observation of what surrounds him and using painting as a liberating outlet. His works, true bubbles outside of time, escape any logic of behavior, thus creating an intimate exchange with the viewer.


Through a poetic and offbeat reading of the world, Philippe Hérard explores the way in which Man interacts with his environment and his fellow human beings. Each composition, mainly on canvas and cardboard, opens up new stories featuring figures such as the Paddle Man and the Buoy Man, thus questioning the human condition with subtle humor.


 In 2009, Philippe Hérard decided to extend his art to urban space by affixing his characters to large collages. During the first confinement in 2020, far from Paris, he created a painting every day, an experience that he immortalized in the book “Un jour un carton”, dealing with solitude. Despite the second confinement, the artist, this time stuck in the capital, uses his authorized daily outing to exhibit his new creations by sticking them on the walls of Belleville, thus demonstrating that even in times of isolation, art remains a unalterable creative force.


 Portrait Photo credit : Philipp Hugues Bonan (PHB)

Interview between gallery owner Catherine Pennec and artist Philippe Hérard Wednesday March 6, 2024

Photo of a wall painted by Philippe in the Pyrénees in 2019. Two iconic figures: l'Homme Bouée and l'Homme Pagaie.


CP: Philippe, where does this artistic vocation come from? What has been your journey?


PH: I discovered painting at the age of 13, thanks to my great-uncle, a priest and painter, while I was immobilized all summer due to a fully plastered leg. He taught me to draw and paint. He sharpened my eye.


Since then, I have never stopped drawing and painting. In the third grade, 80% of my notebooks were covered in drawings. I was actually expelled from school because I wasn't interested in other subjects.

I was too young to go to Paris. So my parents sent me to train in Reims for "decoration, letter painter". We were taught to paint signs, faux wood, and faux marble in buildings or shops.

Around the age of 16, I joined the Ecole Charpentier in Paris for a three-year training in drawing, graphic design, and advertising illustration. I learned a lot during this training with very demanding teachers.

With my diploma in hand, I then worked in advertising agencies for two or three years. I quickly got bored because I didn't have much freedom. So I came back to live in Champagne and started my own agency. This experience was relatively short due to my low interest in commercial prospecting and management. However, during this time, I had some significant encounters, such as with the President of the Association of Painters in Champagne who organizes exhibitions of quality local artists. This encounter boosted me and allowed me to continue painting as I was starting to withdraw into my daily life. This person made me understand that it would be just as difficult for me to be recognized as a graphic designer/advertiser as it would be as a painter. If the path is going to be difficult, I might as well choose the one that will bring me the most satisfaction. Obviously for me, this path is artistic creation. So I choose to return to Paris, to dedicate myself to my artistic production while supporting myself with a series of odd jobs (delivery driver, apartment refurbisher, interior decorator, mover, etc.).

At that time, however, I had few opportunities to present this artistic production, even though it found its audience in some provincial galleries. Then came the financial crisis of 2008 and I witnessed the disappearance of a number of these galleries and found myself with many paintings that were no longer exhibited, including the series "L'Homme Bouée" (The Buoy Man). So I decided to show them on the walls of Paris and this character stuckin his buoy will now travel on the walls of the XXth arrondissement.

At that time, I knew nothing about Street Art. One day, my partner discovered that photos of "L'Homme Bouée" were posted on the Internet. From then on, a dialogue was established with an audience that fell in love with my wall collages, as well as with a number of artists. And I discovered a world that takes photos, reproduces, and even distorts my creations. It must be said that in those years (2009-2010) I hadn't yet signed my works, which aroused the curiosity of passers-by and internet users: "Who is the artist who does this?". Gradually, I met people from the artistic milieu and was approached by the Galerie du Cabinet d'Amateurs in the XXIst arrondissement, which offered me an exhibition in 2014. It was a success. Everything was sold in a short time. Some institutional exhibitions were also proposed to me. One of them particularly marked me: the one in the former women's prison of Doullens in Picardy. The place still bears the traces of so many tragic destinies of women.

CP: The same phenomenon of viral enthusiasm seems to have occurred this time on social networks in 2020 during the lockdown, doesn't it?

PH: Indeed. During the first lockdown, I was with my mom who lives in the countryside in Marne. It was a fruitful period for me. Because that period was indeed somewhat surreal and not devoid of paradoxes. A fertile ground for imagination and creation. So I tried to translate into "painting language" the questions and anxieties of those who, in this context, felt lonely, especially in the city. A new creation every day. An internet user then asked me if I planned to post a cardboard every day. I got into the game and kept up a good pace for 56 days. I know it accompanied the daily lives of a certain number of people, and that's great. All these works were gathered in a book titled "One Day, One Cardboard," published at the end of 2020.

CP: Speaking of which, let's talk about this medium, cardboard. Why this support?

PH: What connects the street to the gallery in my work is the support: cardboard, wood, certain papers, slates, all these materials I find outside. That's what links my work on the street to my work in the gallery.

CP: And the buoy, the paddle, the snorkel, what do they mean to you?

PH: It's the idea of rescue. The buoy is to not sink. The paddle: it's to be able to move or escape. The snorkel: it's to find air. And then I already had "L'Homme Bouée" with his arms stuck in a buoy, I needed a "Paddle Man" ... then a "Snorkel Man".

CP: Why do you depict yourself in so many paintings?

PH: I depict myself because "I have myself at hand". It's practical. Likewise for my relatives and friends, I have them at hand. And painting is how I best express myself.

CP: The cow is often represented in your works...

PH: That's true. I like the "Moo," I grew up with them in the countryside. I like to place them in an incongruous place, like the city. Especially glued to a wall, it's a change from birds and butterflies. Same for fish.

CP: Are you part of a Street Art collective?

PH: No, I don't feel the need for it. I feel close to some of my fellow artists in the Street Art movement, those who operate in a figurative universe and have a story to tell. It has to come from the guts for their work to please and touch me.

CP: You just glued a painting made on kraft paper on the wall of a shop in Clermont-Ferrand, depicting a Snorkel Man. Will you make others in our city or nearby?

PH: No. The idea was simply to introduce my work through different techniques and supports both in your gallery and on the street.

I'm discovering Clermont for the first time. It's winter but the sky is blue and I like this neighborhood, close to your gallery. If this painting on the wall allows people to discover a part of my work and leads the footsteps of the curious to your gallery where my paintings are exhibited, I will be very happy.


Creation by P.Hérard of a painting on kraft paper glued to the wall of a tabacco shop in Clermont on 6/03/24