Photo: Phil Whiting in Oxford, South East

Phil Whiting

Artist, Curator, Researcher

Concepts: Painting the land is the best way I know of evoking half forgotten memories or truths. I have long been drawn to places of trauma, be it abandoned post industrial sites,or war zones. My feelings about the physical reality of what is left moves me to paint. I am in a sense a history painter.

 Quotes: "His work engages with landscape as both a physical place as well as a psychological space.... These works excavate ideas of history and geography, place and time", Phil Nichol, Bayart, 2008.

"Phil Whiting is a painter. His vigorous use of materials- acrylics (in thick striated impasto) inks, charcoal (ground and smeared) applied with brush, knife and 'whatever'- recalls a terrain smarting from the brute force of man's misuse of it. This is not the celebrated picturesque Cornwall we so often see but its dirty, rain-soaked underbelly, a landscape left bereft by voracious mining and haphazard industrial development. Work from Bosnia (his exhibition 'Srebrenica' transfers from the European Parliament Building to the Royal Cornwall Museum in the Spring) is also included - landscapes whose brutal past is etched into their future reminding us of the horrors mankind is capable of creating for itself", Pip Palmer, Galleries magazine, Jan. 2007.

"Predominately black and white, they're built up with thin layers of watery paint that Whiting has splashed, dripped and poured onto the paper using expressive, gestural marks verging on abstraction. Up close, these large paintings are a confusing jumble, as if looking through a mud-spattered window. It's only when you step back, viewing from a distance, that their full power is appreciated. One of the most arresting is 'The Place of Sorrow'. Though the location is not disclosed, its sweeping panoramic view and dramatic sky is incredibly striking. 'Destroyed Muslim Houses Near Srebrenica' is another powerful, psychologically charged work contrasting sharply with the images of Cornwall such as 'Tin Mine Wasteland' or the painting of St Stythians church, its tower just visible in the distance through the drips of paint. Hard-hitting and thought-provoking, this exhibition leaves a lasting impression", David Trigg, Metro, August 2008.

"Those he has made of Cornwall's deserted and derelict tin and copper mines are superb". 'Paintings by Phil Whiting', Frank Ruhrmund, St Ives Times & Echoe, 2008.

"Phil Whiting has an international reputation for his work based not just on the excellence of its production but also on the uncanny way in which from simple elements of a scene he teases out deeper, darker, emotions that connect with our memories of familiar places and not so familiar events, to render them indelible", Dr Tony Piper, Stuart House Museum, 2009.

Influences: Very early on American Abstract Expressionism was important to him. This was enriched by his discovery of David Bomberg and Frank Auerbach (around 1971) and Paul Nash. In the early 80's he also found affinity with German Neo-Expressionism. He reads Modern History avidly and believes that his generation can provide that essential bridge of knowledge/experience between World War 1 and the uncertainties of today.

Career path: Born London 1948. Some earliest memories were of bomb sites seen from push chair. Grew up in Hull. On a school trip to Europe in 1962 experienced at several locations what can only be described as intense past-life experiences which brought on severe migraines. Studied Art at Newcastle, Portsmouth and Falmouth Colleges of Art. Hitch hiked across Europe to former Yugoslavia in 1968 showing solidarity with 'Student Movement' and 'Prague Spring' ("probably my one real achievement whilst a student at Portsmouth College of Art"). Worked in a Psychiatric Hospital near Leicester 1973-74. Met survivors from the 'Great Sleeping Sickness Epidemic'. Lived in Norfolk. Inspired by the areas' haunting landscape but yet to find a suitable language. Best reviews, perhaps, by Michael Chapman in 'Art Review' July 1976 and by Caroline English in 'The Kings Lynn News and Advertiser' June 1978. Destroyed all previous work not purchased for collections 1978. Met Human Rights group working in Palestine. Felt deeply ashamed by Western hypocrisy. Received a supportive letter from Naom Chomsky. Travelled the length of the former Yugoslavia just after Tito died Spring 1980."People extremely apprehensive about the future." Treked in SW Crete following Allies evacuation route of1941 to Paleokhora.Travelled around America visiting 19 States and crossing into Mexico, surviving a hostage incident with illegal Mexican immigrant-1981. Deeply impressed by the absence of any real sense of excavated memory or history especially in the deserts of the S.W. Returned to England determined to become a history painter. Moved to London. In 1985 a girl friend and her 6 year old twin boys were callously gunned down. This traumatic experience made him well qualified to explore such areas as the aftermath and pity of conflict and war - issues that now inform much of his work. Moved to Cornwall in 1989 and embarked on a series of paintings inspired by Cornwalls post-industrial past. Work praised by David Lee in 'Art Review' Nov.1994. In 1995 whilst Co-director of painting school in S.W. France visited Oradour-sur-Glane with students. So moved with what he saw made plans for major project to visit sites of C20th/21st trauma throughout Europe and the Middle East (later to include New York). Project came to be known as 'Places of Mourning in the Western World'. 1996 elected a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists, becoming acting chairman 2006. 2004 oil painting 'Flanders Field' chosen as favourite by visiting Arts Minister Estelle Morris (exhibition 'Critics Choice' at Newlyn Gallery). Exhibition recommended in 'The Times' by Rachel Campbell-Johnston. Invited to accompany n.g.o. 'The Fund for Refugees in Slovenia' to Bosnia to bear witness to the aftermath of genocide as a war artist 2005. Under the noses of Serbian Police sneaked into the derelict U.N. compound at Potocari to make drawings. This culminated in his solo exhibition 'Srebrenica.Paintings from the Grave' held in the European Parliament Building, Brussels 2006. Since then he has been invited to give talks and exhibit his work at many institutions including Truro Cathedral and Oxford University, and has been commissioned by organisations such as The Guardian and Amnesty International.

Further quotes: "I personally found them most moving", Peter Hill, Editor 'Daily Express.'

"Haunting paintings", Lee Trewhela, Editor Arts and Leisure,West Briton Newspapers.

"A brave gesture to capture some of these images of haunted places fixed in the psyche of man. Great stuff", Ken Turner, artist.

"Here, I feel, is an artist who takes as a start important historical subjects and events and transmutes and transforms them, in his personal way, into poetical and magnificent paintings", Roman Halter, artist and Holocaust survivor.

"Sombre but necessary paintings - testimony of an immutable recent history", Professor Paul Gough,UWE,Bristol.

read full statement

Location Oxford, South East
Activities Lecturing, Practice-based research, Participatory projects, Private commissions, Curating
Artforms / type of project Curatorial project, Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Research
Tags painter, human rights, memory, landscape, recent history, conflict, mourning, post industrial landscape, empathy, poetic imagination
Website http://vortex.uwe.ac.uk/wargal.htm

News & Events

  • Who Are These Children?

    10/04/2015 – 06/07/2015
    Leigh Day Human Rights Law Firm, Farringdon, London..

    A selling solo exhibition of paintings highlighting the plight of lost, abused and abandoned children from conflict zones to care homes.

    Find out more

  • Christmas and New Year Exhibition

    14/12/2014 – 05/01/2015
    Belgrave Gallery, St Ives

    An exhibition of Gallery Artists

    Find out more

  • Oxford Schools Freedom From Torture Helen Bamber Memorial Art Exhibition

    27/05/2015 – 13/06/2015
    North Wall Arts Centre, Summertown, Oxford.

    Oxford secondary schools are invited to produce art work for an exhibition to raise awareness of "Freedom From Torture". Phil Whiting and FFT rep will give presentations in schools and select work.

    Find out more

  • In Memory of the Forest

    17/01/2015 – 31/01/2015
    Sarah Wiseman Gallery, Oxford.

    An exhibition of recent paintings by Phil Whiting on the subject of the forest as being both a physical place and a psychological space.

    Find out more

Follow Phil