Repeating cycles in nature is a theme that runs throughout the artwork of Gary Phillips. Whether it is landscapes where the sky meets the sea, portraits of mythical creatures or time travelling parties, visual and conceptual patterns emerge.
Much of his current artwork contrasts the grand with the distressed, as graceful images are often painted onto the rough texture of found objects, such as old doors and panels. His method of recycling allows the artwork to start itself. Shapes that appear in these weathered surfaces will then inspire him towards a starting point. Some of the driftwood used in Phillips’ boat series, were previously parts of boats that sailed the seas; seas that are now depicted in the paintings. In other pieces, the grain of the wood is highlighted, cleverly resembling either ripples of water on a lake or solar flares in space.
The distressed doors not only provide a striking backdrop to Phillips’ party paintings but also symbolise the mysterious door to the unknown. Gatherings of fantastical characters can be seen, who flit from the past to the present. They feed our imagination; opening up possibilities as to what else could be round the corner.
Phillips effectively balances realism with abstraction. He has the ability to simplify brushstrokes so at close inspection we are presented with an obscure mergence of colour and light, yet at a distance they suggest a more complicated image. The quick and confident use of paint gives elegant movement to images such as rolling waves or dancers dresses spinning under the light of twinkling chandeliers. As well as this, the wide tonal contrast convincingly gives each subject three-dimensions. Phillips has the technically skilful way of arranging compositions, which echo the manner of Old Masters, yet the content combines modern elements as well as classical.
Gary Phillips received a BA (hons) Fine Art degree in 1983 from Wolverhampton University. As well as his own art practise Phillips also works as a muralist and set painter. This has included films such as ‘The Libertine’, 2004 and he has since obtained a Scenic Artist Credit for ‘Exodus’, 2007, a project that included constructing Antony Gormley’s sculpture, ‘Wasteman’. He is represented by ‘Hollywood Road Gallery’, Chelsea and ‘The Sphere Gallery’, East London. He currently lives and works in Whitstable.