Phillip Thomas — an artist in residence

Sunday, September 21, 2014

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In his oil paintings and mixed-media works, artist Phillip Thomas combines the imagery and tradition of the old masters with contemporary textures and patterns to create a new iconography.

As a starting point for those cross-cultural conversations, Thomas looks to the model of the French academies, plucking techniques (like oil painting on stretched canvas) and imagery (such as toreadors in elaborate costumes, silhouetted portraits, elaborately staged arrangements of figures) not only as formal elements, but also relics of art history, offering a statement on colonialism and its aftermath, especially in his native Caribbean.

“You want a way to lure people into the image, and then it unfolds itself, like a very slow car crash,” he says. “I try in many ways to present the audience to themselves.”

Phillip Thomas met art enthusiast and unapologetic promoter of all things Jamaican Theresa Roberts through a mutual friend, Guy McIntosh. He was an art dealer, and Roberts had purchased a painting by him during his days as a student at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

“Theresa Roberts is one of the most patriotic persons I've ever met. She cares deeply about the state and direction of our country and wants to see the island (Jamaica) develop. For this reason she supports all things Jamaican… we've been friends ever since.” Through the intervention of Roberts — seems not even HRH Prince Charles can say 'No' to Roberts: Thomas was afforded the opportunity of being in residence at Dumfries House in Scotland for two weeks.

The Prince's Drawing School Dimplex Studio on the Dumfries Estate comprises four artists' studios and affords residency opportunity for practising artists. Thomas was there with two Americans and a fellow artist from Jamaica, Christopher Lawrence. “It was an amazing experience,” he tells SO. “

I was there during the Commonwealth Games and got the opportunity to go to Glasgow, a very beautiful city, where I soaked up the atmosphere of the Games.

“The experience at Dumfries House also afforded me the chance to work in a totally new environment and allowed for new interaction with a whole new set of artists. At the end of the programme the curator of the collection at the estate selected a painting for their permanent collection.”

Post-Scotland Thomas's next stop was New York for his solo exhibition Shattered Boundaries. What's his current project? “I am now working on my project for the next staging of the National Biennial at the National Gallery of Jamaica.”

   
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