Interview: Artist Richard Phillips On Painting Celebrities, NYC's Art World, And His Distinctly Evocative Paintings
You're known for your hyperreal paintings, especially the ones featuring celebrities and cultural figures. Tell me more about how you developed that style.
The celebrity work is just a fraction of my work. The work that leads into this whole series basically started in 1995, and culminated in my first show in 1996. There were images that were derived from fashion media, from the late '60s and early '70s. They were images that were stock or images from magazines that were found, and then they were re-cropped and re-presented from me drawing those images, and that became a basis for painting.
The paintings were basically scaled to be the same scale as large scale abstract expressionist paintings, where you have the physical sense of the paintings. They were a culmination of fashion images and very traditional oil painting technique which has an advantage in painting flesh. The sense of reality in the pictures were heightened by the scale and the technique, which separated them from the flatness of the pop art images from the '60s.
The paintings derived from photographs, but they weren't made as copies as photographs. Rather, they used the realism of photography as a starting point, and then the painting kind of took over from there. After that first body of work that set off a platform from which I work, the works took on different aspects of culture, such as social, political, and institutional critiques.