Phil Canvas is Phil Woodward, a multi-disciplinary artist, who gained an MFA from Goldsmiths in 2018. He is from the UK, and is currently living in Switzerland.

He often appropriates mundane images and invests them with a renewed vigour. He responds directly to the chosen image, focusing primarily on colour. Adulterating the purity of the original with his own messy and dulled oil paints, he sees his interaction with the original image as a kind of mutation or positive contamination. His paintings emerge from a speculative process driven by his engagement with the materiality of paint and its possibilities. A process which explores the relationship between structured planning and spontaneity.



These current ‘face’ paintings have grown out of my propensity to see faces and figurative shapes in the world around me. Pareidolia is a common tendency for many people. Most commonly I see faces in trees and leaves but also in water ripples, stones, carpet patterns and t.v. static. Often, when light has abstracted and distorted the apparent depth of the view into splodges of colour and tone. Like William Blake seeing an angel in a tree when he was a child I have indulged my delusion to fuel my creativity. I have always found these tricks of perception both unnerving and fascinating. Sometimes they instantaneously jump out and startle me and on other occasions they emerge from concentrated looking.

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.



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.


Liquid  Modernity  
MFA Show Goldsmiths College
July 2018

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.


Compost head_#pareidolia #iseefaces.jpg


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.


July 12, 2023

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War On Terroir

Oil on paper on canvas, 14" x 11", 2019