Tony Phillips
Paintings & Drawings & Films

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The works presented in this website have been selected to represent the breadth of my career.  There are fully developed paintings, mostly in the "Predicaments" section, and there are some more casual drawings, some of which sprang into the full-fledged pieces, some that came to a conclusion in themselves, and yet others that playfully suggest further possibilities.

The films were made in the 1970s during a hiatus in my involvement with painting.  Some paintings and drawings before that time are found in the section “A Prior Lifetime”.  The pictures in “Ancient History” are the earliest of all - made during and after art school in the 1960s.


Impulsive and spontaneous drawing is what initiates most of this work. Drawn gestures show me shadows of an imaginary world moving around within the presumptuous face of the paper or canvas. These may dovetail with notions that ease into prospect from casual observations, specific memory, or from reverie, and together these stirrings may ask to be realized, so I work to effect that.

Creatures, persons, places, the weather and the light start shaping up; more definitive situations suggest themselves as I work. I become engaged in dialogue with the possibilities, prompting more careful, focused consideration. If I’m lucky I may connect with just how the work reflects my life and what I newly sense is happening around me. Intuitive process shifts towards consciousness and responsibility. As I bear down I look to the veracity of the work, as it tries my skill, my sense of purpose, my sanity and identity. It can be embarrassing, willfully so, as I dig through my life to expose invisible desires, fears, and awful misapprehensions - my lies to myself. This work is an extension of my psychoanalysis. Hopefully these pictures will amuse and edify others.

What emerges may be more enigma than resolution, something to dwell upon for some while. That’s what I hope for – an object we may continue to question, with the potential to turn the mind. As it is with dreams, so it may be possible for such images as these to be resolved in life – a warning, or a challenge, or a promise… to be avoided, or confronted, or to be fulfilled.


“Phillips’s best pictures, with their particular tension between humor and eeriness, between the familiar and the eccentric, between the fanciful and the obsessive, are like a high-wire act, carried off in dream time.”
                                      Robert Berlind,  Art in America, July 1986

“Everything strange in the pictures appears to have come together instantaneously, as if illuminated for a fraction of a second by a bolt of lightning…..But even the scenes in Phillips’ work that take place at dawn or dusk appear to have coalesced in a private flash or epiphany that the artist has made public.”
                                     Alan Artner,  Chicago Tribune,  April 2,1993

“Phillips takes full advantage of the artist’s license: space, form, and logic are to him just malleable elements that can be orchestrated however he sees fit.  And, in nearly every instance in this imaginative artist’s inventive career, these elements are choreographed to maximize their potential for almost dreamlike ambiguity.  Tony Phillips paints reveries, curious and foreboding glimpses of the world just around the bend…”
                                    James Yood,  Spirited Visions catalogue



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