Phillip Allen, British painter and lecturer (Wimbledon College of Art, Royal College of Art) provides a lecture and Q&A about his practice. Here are some my brief notes from that lecture:

About Phil Allen

Phillip Allen is a British painter and also experienced art tutor/lecturer at Wimbledon College of Art and the Royal College of Art. He is an alumnus of Kingston Polytechnic (BA) and earned his MA from the Royal College of Art.

Allen is currently represented by four galleries, including:

  • Approach Gallery
  • Xavier Hufkens
  • Kerlin Gallery
  • and one other gallery (didn’t catch the name?)

Themes/methods present in Allen’s work are:

  • “illusionistic”
  • abstract
  • use of impasto, thick application of paint
  • some say “utopian”
  • Always a focus and importance on the edge of the work
Phillip Allen, 'onm', 2008, oil on canvas. Image courtesy
Phillip Allen, ‘onm’, 2008, oil on canvas. Image courtesy

Regarding Allen’s personal history/bio, he says:

  • B.A. work came put through trial and error, and process (didn’t get the same content as Wimbledon is taught now)
  • in his time at RCA (on the MA), there very few painters; other people moved towards conceptual art, so Allen decided he “needed to put content” in his work (but questioned how to do that? What is the work about?)
  • Allen thought he had to make “clever” work, so emptied the painting of a lot of colour and imagery, and removed extra stuff. For example, he poured paint and a single wasp looking for answers – and thought at the time,”you’ll get answers in an MA”. He thought the “answer” to questions in his work was to remove the paintbrush, and work from found images/content (e.g. a daily tabloid)
  • Allen taught for a while – and still didn’t know what his “work was about” and turned to experimentation with paper, quick paintings… and there were still problems when painting the drawings, transcribing them to canvas from newsprint (and found that white primed canvas looked “dead”)
  • In 1996, finally tried making the drawings in 3-D objects, e.g., out of cardboard, and “things started to work then”
Phillip Allen, 'Deep North (Academy Version)', 2003,  oil on board. Image courtesy Kerlin Gallery
Phillip Allen, ‘Deep North (Academy Version)’, 2003, oil on board. Image courtesy Kerlin Gallery

According to Allen, the lessons he learned (as a painter, as an art tutor):

  • “…sometimes so unaware of what you’re up to, that the most obvious thing about the work, you really do miss…” [it when it’s right in front of you]…
  • at that point (1996), Allen realised there are “… two kinds of artists, and he is the second kind”
    1. Orchestra: this artist knows lots of people and the work comes together at the end
    2. Soloist: this artist needs to be on his/her own, in the studio by alone every day, making things
  • When Allen started making paintings again for Approach Gallery, reached a point where things needed to change, because “things aren’t really working that well… ” and decided then that he wanted to paint regardless of what other people think, that he was fed up of “trying to make art”
  • A few important paintings in Allen’s artistic development:
    see URL:
Phillip Allen, 'Tifosi', 2005, oil on canvas. Image courtesy Kerlin Gallery.
Phillip Allen, ‘Tifosi’, 2005, oil on canvas. Image courtesy Kerlin Gallery.

In his work in 2000s, Allen found “a top and a bottom, then fill in the middle through invention”, focused on the process and stopped worrying so much about the content… Things start working now. Hated the blank canvas so much so figured out what must go there before starting on a canvas (used sketchbook and ink/pen studies a lot prior to painting). Kept painting “the same things over and over again”…

At this time, he is beginning to think painters (or himself) who only paint one thing, and “dance around that one thing your work is about”

Eventually, he figures he came to a point where felt his work needed to move on, and now is sort of lost where to go next, trying to work with the thick edges, etc…

More links and information about Phillip Allen: