Philip Wolfhagen | A Painter’s Landscape
22.09.10 to 16.10.10
‘My work over the past two years has taken me on a journey of rediscovery and represents a sort of renaissance in my painting practice. I found the need to expand my iconography and lexicon of marks to cope with the influx of new compositional elements in the paintings. My starting point was the work of Claude Lorrain – the founder of landscape as a separate genre in Western art – because I wanted to go to the very source of the genre and then find my way home again to the present. For such a journey through the history of landscape painting, it is convenient that I happen to live in a countryside with all the necessary ‘classical’ landscape elements; ever-changing cloudscapes, distant blue mountains, arable plains criss-crossed with hedgerows and meandering rivers, and pleasing foreground tree-forms to ‘frame’ the view. By entitling this exhibition “A Painter’s Landscape” I am not only referring to these formal elements in the paintings, but if one moves the apostrophe, I am also acknowledging my predecessors who painted this landscape. Having said that, it is important for me that the viewer not read my paintings as depictions of a specific geographical place, after all, the concept of landscape is inseparable from painting; it is a cultural form upon which we can project other concerns.
Each time I set out to paint, I think about the preconceptions audiences have about landscape painting. I am constantly seeking new ways to address these preconceptions, to make the viewer feel they are looking for the first time, to forget what has already been seen, to even forget about landscape at all and be aware of only paint. As I paint, I keep a critical eye on every gesture; every action must be meaningful. The best paintings are testament to a heightened period of lucid concentration; every swathe of colour, every smear, scumble and scratch is meaningful. Nothing could be added to or subtracted from the painting without weakening it.
The compellingly physical nature of my paintings is intended to elicit an emotional response and take the viewer on the journey with me. The representation of illusory space is merely the setting-off point; the trajectory of the eye through that space is what ties the painting together, but the illusion of distance is constantly checked by the sculptural presence of the painting as an object.
In essence my practise centres on heightening my own experience of the natural world and celebrating the continuity of my connection to it. If there is a sense of reassurance for the viewer in my paintings, it is probably derived from a strong feeling of connection to nature. In this sense, the object of the painting is a physical manifestation of love for the natural world. It would appear that the value of maintaining this connection is deeply ingrained in us, no matter how urbane our lives are.’
Philip Wolfhagen 2010