Saturday 23 September 2017

What Lies Beneath: Deepdrippings (International Version) by Phillip Allen

Deepdrippings (International Version) by Phillip Allen, Oil on board. Courtesy of Kerlin Gallery Courtesy of artist and Kerlin Gallery

Deepdrippings (International Version) by Phillip Allen
Deepdrippings (International Version) by Phillip Allen

Niall MacMonagle

Aristotle could name only two colours: black and white. A character in a Colm Toibín short story says: "You'd wonder if he had eyes in his head." But experts say that, way back then, the terms just weren't there to match the colours. Red came next. Because of blood. Puzzle that one.

London-based artist Phillip Allen could name every colour and his work energetically celebrates colour, texture, structure. Standing before a blank board, everything is possible: "Starting off paintings is really easy, the consequences of going wrong are virtually zero. The first phase is very open, the anxiety comes much later. Finishing is the nail-biting bit."

Allen's recent work, Deepdrippings, now showing at the Kerlin Gallery, until March 25, displays great control and confidence. The temptation is to touch; the eye ranges and roams over the singing, seductive image with a delicious pleasure, over the brushwork and pure, exuberant squiggles as if straight from the tube: "A brush is always used somewhere in the making. I do apply paint directly from the tube but it always has some kind of encounter with a brush. I use various size rigger brushes which are for water colours. I like them when they get splayed and ungainly, this is then perfect for me," Allen says. He works on a few paintings at a time. What about the ones that don't work out? Do you abandon, rework? "My paintings are continually not working out. I have a stack of them in my studio and every now and then I do a purge and throw loads out." And that title? "Deepdrippings was initially an auto correct on my phone that went wrong but I liked the associations."

This particular work took a year, "most of that time is waiting for the paint to dry. I don't paint wet on wet." Its dark, flowing shapes, overlaid with bright colours create a vibrant dynamic. For Allen "this co-existence is at the hub of the painting; I'm trying to work out and manage this dynamic between things, gaps and divisions. This is where the real work is, adjusting forms, colours, relationships, surface". Though "drawings are the nuts and bolts" Allen moved from figurative to totally abstract, "on some level all painting is abstract, collections of shapes, forms, colour". Colour again. To open Aristotle's eyes.

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