A Somerset resident since 2007, Philip’s intriguing repertoire of ideas and images has evolved over a career spanning more than 40 years.
WTFH is a compact distillation of his life’s work, featuring circa 25 figurative and near-abstract pictures that share the artist’s distinctive, sophisticated palette of muted colour and finish. His themes are multi-layered and invite engagement with the viewer through deceptive simplicity and at times disarming humour.
For over a decade from 1986, Philip was part of the stable of 20th century artists nurtured by the late Christopher Hull, a flamboyant Motcombe Street London gallery owner who famously combined his love of art and artists as a racehorse tipster.
Philip came to Hull’s attention when he won the Royal Overseas League annual painting prize in 1986. Until that time he’d been flat broke after a post-graduate degree from the Royal College of Art five years earlier. Overnight, his paintings began to find their way into the homes of the rich and famous, thanks to Hull’s remarkable talent as a bridge-builder between young artists and well-heeled collectors. The relationship brought Philip success, which he enjoyed but never quite trusted. A part-time role for twenty years as Senior Lecturer in Visual Research at Brighton University was his safety net, along with the support of his long standing partner, the fashion designer Sue McCarthy .
As in the painted image, life does not run in a straight line. Philip never stopped painting, but after 2006 he left his teaching post in Brighton and stopped exhibiting, giving himself time and space away from commercial pressures that were failing to nourish his talent. The gap years extended when Sue fell ill with mesothelioma that claimed her life in 2014 at the age of just 59.
In some respects life had painted Philip into a corner. Through determination, hard work and an unwavering faith in his art, he has painted himself out of it again. There is, as a result, a rich seam of optimism running through his work, which gives this exhibition a curiously commanding authority.
Where To From Here? Is showing at the Brewhouse Theatre and Art Centre, Coal Orchard, Taunton TA1 1JL from March 23 until May 5. Admission is free.