Staring at the Sun with a Penny in My Pocket: Matt Phillips

At first glance, Brooklyn-based Matt Phillips’ paintings may appear to be rooted solely in rigid formal abstraction. But in reality the works are deceptively complex, each containing varied and richly worked surfaces. For example, in Last Love Song an imprecisely drawn X divides the composition into four quadrants. A gestural slashing X further sub-divides each section. Within these shapes are subtle shifts of thinly applied color achieved through intimate brushwork. Rather than by pre-determined formula, the paintings emerge through improvisation and revision. While Phillips acknowledges an obvious connection to geometric abstraction, other influences are evident such as pattern, textiles, folk art, still life painting, and quilts. “I was affected by seeing the quilts of Gee’s Bend.” says the artist. Phillips’ paintings, like the Gee’s Bend quilts, possess a beauty, rhythm and soul because their construction does not conform to unbending rules—every detail isn’t carefully measured. “A quiet humanity permeates the surfaces of my paintings and is contained within images that initially appear rational, calculated and resolved.” says Phillips. Through color relationships and arrangement of simple shapes, he has produced paintings that are at times quirky and playful, and in other instances tranquil and ordered.



Matt Phillips (American, born 1979)
top: Last Love Song, 2014
bottom: Threewarned, 2014
Both works: Pigment and Silica on linen, Courtesy of the artist and Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects