PHOTOGRAPHY HANS FONK | TEXT RAPHAËLLE DE STANISLAS

He spends the winter in his L’Usine 64 in Montreuil-sous-Bois, a suburb of Paris. In the summer he works in his studio in Pézenas, in the south of France. For his winter residence he converted an abandoned factory into a home and studio. Emmanuel Flipo is an artist who decided, after having lived and worked in New York for over ten years, to settle back in his native country. He chose Montreuil – which the artist calls ‘the Brooklyn of Paris’. Here he built L’Usine 64, using largely recycled materials for the construction and interior appointments. The interior is an upbeat mixture of old and new furniture, plus his own art.

Montreuil-sous-Bois is a suburb east of Paris, seemingly far removed from the capital’s glitz and glamour. The atmosphere of the ‘banlieue’ prevails, with a dash of Mali added, on account of the many people who have settled there from that African country. This is where the artist, Emmanuel Flipo, embarked on a new adventure. He was born in 1958 in Agen, in south-western France, and studied at various academies including the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Toulouse and the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts at Villa Arson in Nice. In 1993 he moved to New York. With his friend, the art collector Steve Guttman, he founded the centre of contemporary art ‘Stop Art’ in San José, California. At the beginning of the present century he returned to France and realised L’Usine 64 in Montreuil. An abandoned factory had caught his eye and he proceeded to give it a thorough make-over.

The building was originally rectangular in shape and over the years had suffered the ravages of time. Emmanuel first had it thoroughly cleaned and then completely re-roofed before fitting out the interior – and that interior has turned out both imaginative and colourful. Just like in his artistic works, he used recycled materials wherever possible. An old, cast-iron bath tub holds a central place in the living room. It has been fitted with a glass top and now serves as a coffee table. Chairs and sofas are arranged around it; they too have had former lives. In fact, that applies to all the interior appointments. Together with the atmosphere of the old industrial premises and the robust roof, they create a unique ambience.

It is further reinforced by Emmanuel’s art that is stationed here and there. Works by other artists whom he admires, such as Igor Vishnyakov and Suisse Marocain, are also on show. The styling, if you can call it that, is ‘improvised’, making the atelier a quirky place. You won’t find clear-cut, well-considered plans enhanced with sleek design furniture: this is cheerful chaos, as engendered by the artist and guaranteed to be atmospheric.

The interior is arranged as follows: the entire ground floor serves as a studio and workshop. An undefined entrance takes visitors straight into that space, where colour and structure might be described as a archetypical. A staircase at one corner leads to the first floor, which is where the artist lives. A large open well makes for constant contact with the lower floor. The living storey itself is another large open space, with the occasional slightly elevated ‘platform’ and folding screen to provide structure in the overall space. For instance, the kitchen and adjacent roof terrace are at a somewhat higher level and, at the back of the space, another platform has been built. The bedroom is located at one end, with the bathroom a few steps lower down.