ART MATTERS: Spotlight on Philip Tyler

April 19, 2022

Enzo Marra shines a light on the work of Philip Tyler

This month I am going to introduce some of you to the artworks of Philip Tyler; a painter who has already appeared on Sky Portrait Artist of the Year twice. Well-travelled in his studies, initially at the East Ham College of Technology, Loughborough College of Art & Design, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, and finally at Brighton Polytechnic. Before staying on and then beginning to teach here at what is now the University of Brighton.

Having earlier painted in a more abstract manner, the energy of his brush strokes shows a shadow of his previous concerns. Now employed in the depiction from real life origins, ranging from landscape scenes, a myriad of self-portrait expressions, and portraits and nudes of others.

Once he simply began to directly record what he could see, he faced the challenge of exploring the human figure, with limited access to a model he logically began painting himself. This approach led him towards starting the Edward Street series, self-portraits that are inspired by one of the spaces in the university. The sense of drama, altered by the atmosphere of Baroque lighting and the figure illuminated by it within the potent space.

For over 30 years, he has followed his central preoccupation, the seen figure segregated and alone, and its negation the mingling of groups of people inhabiting urban environments. Looking at collective behaviour and the hive mentally of our daily routines. Utilising the illusory aspect of the painted surface, without losing the essential physicality of the medium that forms it all.

The brutal honesty he voices in his self-portraits, allowing the viewer to experience a truer more rounded impression of the person who is being painted into being. The utilitarian settings, the starkness of the inhabited spaces, creating an everyman scenario for the bodily manifestation to then happen.

His landscapes recognisable and raw, alive with depth and brevity. The high skies cloud strewn and subtle increment tinged. The sense of wonder that a wide unspoilt vista can evoke, alive in his painted windows into the natural world.

His starting point usually photographic and with the arrival of high-quality digital images on your phone, he began using his phone camera with more urgency. His phone a traveling sketchbook, to catch visual incidents that may inspire future pigment reinterpretations.

Painting is the major part of his practice, because of its ease and limited range of suitable materials, which can yield from them a great deal. Thankfully he has a studio in my house so he can make work with greater freedom, which usually happens on the weekend where he sets aside a few hours.

Because of this he has learnt to work quickly, with sessions which potentially could produce four or five paintings. The urgency of the creative process, imbuing them with more than just a satisfactory resemblance. Without the opportunity to slow down and second think, each decision adding to the atmosphere and mood he is attempting to evoke.