Phil Woodward is a British artist living in Cham, Switzerland. He has a First Class Degree in Fine Art and a Masters of Fine Art (MFA) from Goldsmiths College, University of London. He moved to Switzerland in 2020.
“My paintings emerge from a speculative process which precariously balances intention, planning and spontaneity. Being surprised by what emerges from the physical process of painting is important. Sometimes, I appropriate an image as a starting point, as in the smaller paintings here. With the larger ‘face’ paintings, I simply begin and allow the paint to lead me, inspired by the movement and possibilities of the material. The placing of colours next to and over each other is of endless fascination to me. I limit myself to six primary oil colours, plus Titanium white. I prefer my colours largely dulled and reminiscent of mid twentieth century abstract painting.
I intentionally disrupt the early layers of gesso and acrylic. The smudges and smears suggest features that I can take advantage of and develop. The paintings grow from these early quick intuitive marks. In nature and in the studio I allow myself to perceive what isn’t actually there. And then, all of a sudden, or over time, it is."
FACE PAINTINGS 2020
I am increasingly inspired by and scared of nature. Alone, walking in a forest, or swimming in a lake or the sea I feel truly alert and alive and connected to our animal past. I have a propensity to see faces and figurative shapes in the world around me. Pareidolia, as it is known, is common in many people. Mostly, I see faces in trees and leaves but also in water ripples, stones, carpet patterns and even t.v. static. Like William Blake who allegedly saw an angel in a tree when he was a child, I have indulged this delusion to fuel my creativity. I have always found these tricks of perception unnerving and fascinating.
I take advantage of my intentionally messy preparation layers of gesso and acrylic. The smudges and smears suggest facial features that I develop into the facial patterns. The paintings grow from these early quick, intuitive marks. An internal logic will emerge within the painting that I try to listen and respond to. I limit myself to six oil colours, two of each primary plus Titanium white. I tend to prefer my colours dulled and reminiscent of mid twentieth century abstract painting.
I want my paintings to play with conventional ideas of abstraction and figuration. They attempt to treat the human face as just another pattern of blobs and shapes in a world of splodges. But, partly because of the distinctive five blob facial pattern and the paintings’ titles they are thrown back into the human world of narrative and figuration.
WAR ON TERROIR 2019
This series of paintings named, War on Terroir are all painted on adverts from Frieze magazine, first mounted onto canvas. Whilst primarily concerned with exploring colour, form, and spontaneous mark making, the paintings also consider the relationship between purity, taste and call for a reevaluation of what constitutes contamination. They discuss the possibility of the grand idea of a painting as a form protest, slowly and almost biologically spreading beyond the sterile environment of the gallery or Art Fair. At the same time they also worry about the possibility of painting descending into a futile kind of virtue signalling, biting the hand that feeds it.
MFA Show Goldsmiths College
During my Masters research I was struck by how similar Zygmunt Bauman's description of industrial and societal change reflected the changes undergone by my own family history over the last three generations. The Miner's Strike and the opening of the UK's first IKEA store in my home town coincided with my own adolescence and search for masculinity. I was lost in a heady concoction of labour activism, picket line violence and home furnishing.
“The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.”
Having ignored the advice inherent in William Blake’s aphorism for a long time, I eventually followed my folly and photographed the contents of my compost bin in December 2018. I finally answered the pulsating, subconscious energy that is the mass of the Earth’s compost which was calling me.
I have photographed it regularly since then. Prompted by an interest in pareidolia, essentially seeing faces in things, I look for a suggestion a of face in the head sized rotting sculptures I make from my food waste. I post them on instagram, inserted amongst the hashtags #instafoodie #instarecipe #cheflife etc. I see them as causing a mild disruption amongst the scrolling recipes and curated, seductive, food galleries. They are not wise but an absurd reminder of our impermanence as a species and the waste we produce through our consumption. We, our ideas and our art will eventually return to compost.
@CompostBinHead is pleased to be featured on Cosmos Carl - Parasite Platform.
These paintings reference the certainty of mid twentieth century American painting for reasons of both admiration and irony. They question the traditional cliche of the male painter as a macho, misogynist genius and the screen as the dominant cultural guide. Great painters but awful fathers.
The answers in my paintings are all taken from the game Trivial Pursuit, Genus Edition,1981. These lists of answers make a strange sense to me and have a poetic quality.
I intentionally used domestic implements to paint rather than the brush. An cake icing bag filled with impasto paint for the letters and an electric sander to make gestures.
Making these paintings was very performative, it was easy to fantasise that it was 1950 and I was fulfilling Greenbergian principles of flatness.