Philippe Nault Abstract Painter

Born in the heart of the postwar New School of Paris movement, Philippe Nault’s introduction to painting started early. Figurative expression characterized most of his original cultural environment, and before progressing towards abstraction, his first approach to painting was purely representational.

Rather than pursuing art as a career, and driven by his interest for cosmology and spirituality, he eventually left his home country to explore other cultures, other mythologies, expanding a search that ultimately helped him shape an intimate vision of the world as the landscape of self. From this point on, painting became a practice, a way to contemplate, and to identify with this concept. His unusual life course became his body of work translated onto canvas, and quantified over a period of fifty years.

After living successively in Paris, London and New Orleans, he ultimately settled in Hawaii. There he learnt from the ancestral ontology of the people of the Pacific, which favors sensory intelligence as an essential connector with the natural world. In a sense, it was a magnification of his predilection to bypass the justifications usually associated with natural sensorial perceptions. The naked sound of speech or laughter, or the raw pattern of an image, then appear in their genuine and primal potentiality.

This was an instinctive way to elude the ordinary, where our perception of reality is only limited to the boundaries we define for ourselves, and to venture out of rational cognition. It also summarizes Nault’s exploration of abstraction.

His recent work (2016-2021) comprises three series of paintings, TERR, Chawan Landscapes, and Kumulipo, based on this process.

TERR Series

TERR is the Latin root-word meaning earth, or soil. It informs the word terroir, the solidified memory that animates and characterizes a particular land area, and the symbiotic nature of its environment.

It is also the name given to a series of works started in January 2021 on the volcanic island of Hawaii, using native soils as a primary medium.

The impulse to use raw soil as paint, arose somewhat organically, from working on unstretched canvas or paper, often laid in direct contact with the configurations of improvised backgrounds, in the rainforest and lava fields of the island.

In the Hawaiian islands, the soil tells unequivocally the story of their birth. They were formed by what is called a hotspot in volcanology, where the magma moves and erupts through the Earth’s crust to build, over millions of years, some of the largest undersea mountains that form the archipelago.

The soils used for the series TERR come from three specific areas of the island of Hawaii, the fern forest of Kilauea Volcano, the south point of Ka Lae, and Hamakua.

Philippe Nault Abstract Art: Terr Series
01222021 . 22 x 47 in (56 x 120 cm) Mud, Soils, and Acrylic on Paper . 2021
Philippe Nault Abstract Art: Terr Series
02052021 . 20 x 47 in (47 x 120 cm) Volcanic soils and acrylic on paper . 2021
Philippe Nault Abstract Art: Terr Series
02102021 • 47 x 22 in (120 x 56 cm) • Mud & Acrylic on Paper


Previous to TERR, the series Chawan Landscapes (2020) also relates to the earth element, and namely to the traditional Japanese art of raku ceramic, used in the making of the chawan (tea ceremony bowl).

In the raku art form, the relationship between the potter and the forces at play between the hand and the clay, the wood and the fire, as well as the variable atmospheric conditions, is a love affair. It goes beyond the artist’s personal esthetic concerns, and enters a spiritual realm.

As a long time practitioner of chado (the Japanese way of tea), Nault was deeply infatuated by this philosophy. While these paintings were not intended to be illustrations per se of tea bowls, the symbolism of the chawan, known in chado as a “handheld universe”, reveals itself spontaneously through his work. The circular wall of the bowl encompassing the green froth of the tea, is unrolled and spread out across the paintings like skies and landscapes.

The Chawan Landscapes series was his first attempt at using raw soil and ashes as a medium, and a number of these paintings are therefore included in the TERR series.

Philippe Nault Abstract Art
10072020 . 22 x 30 in (56 x 76 cm) Acrylic on paper . 2020
Philippe Nault Abstract Art: Chawan Landscapes Series
08222020, 22 x 30 in (56 x 76 cm) Acrylic on paper, 2020
Philippe Nault Abstract Art: Chawan Landscapes Series
03232021-2, 22.5 x 30 in (56 x 76 cm) Forest mud and acrylic on paper, 2021
Philippe Nault Abstract Art: Chawan Landscapes Series
01092021-7 . 22 x 30 in (56 x 76 cm) Volcanic soil and acrylic on paper . 2021


According to Hawaiian mythology, Kumulipo is the word for the cosmic darkness out of which the world materializes, and appropriately, the name for the Hawaiian sacred chant of creation.

Kumulipo is also the name that was given to a series of works that Nault began in 2016, while painting his canvas over the random reliefs of the natural ground. Emerging from large brush sweeps, the images evoke the genesis and the multiplication of life forms as told in the chant.

This work also correlates two significant aspects of Nault’s personal interests that participate in his painting process. One is his initiative of image shaping in direct contact with the configurations of the natural ground, a practice he relates to the parietal paintings of Paleolithic cave complexes in France. The other is the concept of kupua in Hawaiian mythology, or the physical occurrence of shape-shifter gods at work through the primal forces in nature.

Kumulipo Series: Philippe Francois Nault, Abstract Art
Kumulipo II . 45 x 84 in (115x215 cm) Acrylic on Canvas . 2016
Philippe Nault Abstract Art: Kumulipo Series
Kumulipo I . 96 x 52 in ( 245 x 130 cm) Acrylic on Canvas . 2016
Kumulipo III - Philippe Francois Nault, Abstract Art
Kumulipo III . 75 x 49 in (190 x 125 cm) Acrylic on Canvas . 2019
Kumulipo IV, Philippe Francois Nault, Abstract Art
Kumulipo IV . 60 x 60 in (150 x 150 cm) . Acrylic on Canvas . 2016