Live out Loud! The paintings of Jane Phillips
Live out Loud is the title of the exhibition now showing at Mission Gallery in Swansea, celebrating the creativity, life and achievements of Mission Gallery’s first director Jane Philips (1957 – 2011).
If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: ‘I am here to live out loud’.
These wonderful colour-drenched abstract paintings, do seem a lot like celebrations of life. In a previous post I reflected on the idea that the job of the artist is to make painting live. Jane Phillips knew how to do that. She also knew how to study. The exhibition includes a case of sketchbooks, just a few of the many that she kept, with some of their contents displayed. Some, based on Josef Albers’ simultaneous colour contrast exercises that many of us did at art school, are in one sense ordinary, and in another sense extraordinarily beautiful. I couldn’t pull myself away from the 6″ x 6″ colour and black and white studies. Even the “black and white” ones are about colour.
The large canvases are lovely, yet my favourite of the paintings is modest in size and looks a lot like a formal study.
The series of vertical bars of colour seem to be overlaid by different coloured horizontal bands thus changing the colours underneath. But when you get up close it is really difficult to tell whether the bands create the colour changes or whether, in fact, the rectangles making up the horizontal bands are actually painted directly with those different colours, giving only the impression of translucent bands.
I studied it long and hard and I couldn’t work out whether the bands caused the colour changes or whether colour changes were the cause of the bands. I liked that the artist’s study had elicited studious behaviour in me the viewer. And it wasn’t just study, it was also enjoyment. The painting is decorative, which I think corresponds to enjoyment, and thoughtful, corresponding to studiousness. This kind of pleasurable studying reminds me that I am alive: I think therefore I am. The painting is a call to study and to enjoy – a call to live out loud.
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