Phillip Allen was born in London in 1967 and currently lives and works in the capital. He was educated at Kingston University, London and Royal College of Art, London, where he obtained an MA in Fine Art in 1992.
Allen is known for his textured paintings and pen drawings, both of which use colour and shape to exploit his materials to their inherent potential. His sketches and felt-tip drawings display a fascination with geometry and abstract form, and possess something of the school boy’s doodles, despite being controlled and intricately arranged.
Allen has exhibited broadly, including the following group exhibitions: The British Art Show 6, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary, Art Gateshead;, touring to venues in Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol, 2005; Archipeinture: painters build architecture, Le Plateau/Frac Île-de France, Paris; Camden Arts Centre, London, 2006 and Layer Cake, Fabio Tiboni Arte Contemporanea, Bologna, Italy, 2007. Recent solo exhibitions include Phillip Allen: Recent Paintings, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, LongIsland City, New York, 2003; One Man Show, Xavier Hufkens, ART Brussels, 2005; Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes, 2006 and The Approach, London, 2008-9.
The artist is represented by The Approach, London.
June 10, 2015AUTOCATALYTIC FUTURE GAMES
On a trajectory from Lascaux via aerosols, our bioaesthetic inheritance is cultivated beneath the inflated sun. An accretion of stenciled hands in the darkness, then a trillion painted surfaces.
A group exhibition. A variation of structured gestures and analogue procedures. A compilation of paintings in 2015.Paintings selected by each artist.
Preview / Wednesday 10th June 6.00 - 9.00 pm Exhibition Open / 11th - 14th + 17th - 21st June 1.00 - 6.00 pm
Second Floor Studios & Arts, Harrington Way, London SE18 5NR
June 10, 2011Phillip Allen & Martin Westwood in The Perfect Crime
The Perfect Crime runs at the No.4A Gallery from 10th June – 22nd July 2011. The exhibition is curated by Phillip Allen and Dan Coombs and showcases a selection of small scale works by over 30 artists including Martin Westwood.
The gallery is an artist led gallery with studios on the Malvern Hills. For more information visit the No.4A Gallery website.
December 3, 2010EXHIBITION: Phillip Allen in Fade Away
Visit our blog to read the full and recent conversation between Phillip Allen and Alli Sharma on Allen’s recent trip to The British School at Rome.
November 13, 2009CCA Andratx, Mallorca
CCA Andratx is pleased to announce the next big collective exhibition of Kunsthalle, the recent acquisitions of ART FOUNDATION MALLORCA. Curated by Patricia Asbaek, Friederike Nymphius and Barry Schwabsky, the work of Phillip Allen and Rachel Howard is part of the current collection and expands this year to include a number of artists celebrated worldwide.
June 5, 2009Exhibition in Dublin
Phillip Allen will be exhibiting at the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin between 5th June - 4th July 2009
All my work comes from drawing. And these drawings come from rapid sessions, almost sating oneself with endless pieces of A4 300g weight card, usually ivory white, that has to have a specific texture to its surface, smooth so felt tip pens just cause a perfect friction. The drawings are done during a relatively short period of time, like when somebody eats or drinks too much; it’s a binge session. Ritualistic, atavistic and ordered, the drawings come from I don’t know what – just the imagination, one after another. They just come.
Phillip Allen and Chris Koning in Conversation
CK: So what's this book thing you're doing for Other Criteria, then? Where’s your head at?
PA: This whole Other Criteria thing is to do with the book of my felt tip pen drawings and a set of etchings. "the artist no longer as the moralist worker, nor as the civil servant, the bureaucrat or the media star, not even the artist as an artist... But the artist as a kind of player, a masterful, philosophical player who simply enjoys the detective uncovering of winning moves" This is from a catalogue from the Douglas Hide Gallery about the work of Gabriel Orozco and at the moment resonates. It is important to understand that drawings can never be remade, but paintings can, if the messy studio began to burn it would be the drawings that would be rescued first. And the paintings will never be the drawings yet without the potential of painting the drawings are kind of impotent.
CK: And yet the sum total of the experience of the drawings in that case is the painting, so you would have to rescue the paintings first, surely? Then you could do your detective work backwards.. I like the ‘detectiving’ analogy: an appropriate response to looking at one of your paintings would then be, 'who dunnit?' But you already know the answer: and that's the rub… you are uncovering clues set by yourself, there is not external mystery… or is there? How do you go about setting up the questions to be answered? It seems to me that the artists' whose work 'works' are those that can do this without feeling like fakes.
PA: I liked the "philosophical player" bit. It makes me laugh people that win the lottery and then they refuse to change their life, keep the job etc. Setting up questions to be answered? Some questions are more appealing, you're attracted to them ....what happens if I paint? is a good question. Maybe you inherit questions, the question is nothing to do with you, it’s just there, and your initial answers are by mimicking other artist’s answers. Doing their thing. It's like that Richard Prince painting "I told my psychoanalyst everything and now he is doing my act" (or something like that). And then these duplicate answers get contaminated by your inabilities and these get misunderstood as joie de vivre. My brother always drew better than me as a kid, so when young my drawings always mimicked his drawings. I copied.
CK: What does your brother do now? Mine is training to be a lawyer - and he was also better at drawing than I was - but that may have been that he was never worried about how it looked, only what it depicted. I was always terrified of making a bad drawing. Being misunderstood as 'joie de vivre'?! Never. Contaminated by inabilities? Is that the inability to be someone else - to have been in that time and place making the decisions they made… one wouldn't want to be, of course. The ego must make an appearance - maybe that's the 'joie de vivre'! And all's fair in love and war. And painting. And the question of how drawing and painting relate to one another. I still remember being 'told off' once - I was looking at a Guillermo Kuitca painting from the 90s - it seemed to me to be a painting - on canvas. Someone cleverer than me said 'it's a drawing - and when I was confused followed up with, ‘drawing is a SPACE, not a medium, dummy'. So, to refer to your earlier comment about being able to 'redo' a painting but not a drawing: how do you think about 'painting space' as different or similar to 'drawing space'?
PA: My brother now works at Gatwick airport... something to do with construction but he also had this way of depicting things that summed up childhood fascinations. I remember one of a whale being skinned on a whaling ship. I remember copying that one, secret agents (Kojack-type characters with sunglasses.) Copied that one as well. Even when growing up together we would sit in my bedroom and draw stuff, stupid stuff but I instantly got his drawings.....the impact I got looking at them was instant, utterly frictionless, no "what’s that or I don’t get it". And as a child good drawings got attention from parents and so the undeveloped ego was nourished. You would say that painting contains drawing for example Joanne Greenbaums work, or Raul de Kesyer or Andreas Hoffer - There is that symbiotic relationship between painting and drawing. When I say redo a painting, I mean the paintings can exist as multiples... a number of versions. To redo a drawing is unnecessary, the activity becomes one of mimicking the original, drawings are singular. Drawing predominately interests me as a graphic medium. My drawings have to work for me, as they have a specific function, to act as a feedback loop. The paintings take only the graphic image from the drawings.
CK: I like your differentiation better: that a painting is almost an endless enterprise. But WHY is that? Is it just the nature of paint? What does that say about drawings made in paint? Your comment also begs the question: is there a difference for the viewer?
PA: It is something to do with the nature of paint but it is also about trying to rip the image away from the medium, and each tear from medium to image leaves you with an unexpected torn edge. When you mention drawings made in paint, Clemente comes to mind, those ink (?) drawings on paper mounted on linen (?) When looking at those my immediate reaction is not to ponder on whether they are paintings or drawings. Expand a bit more on the "is there a difference for the viewer'.
CK: I guess I wonder what the viewer can expect to get from looking at a drawing as opposed to a painting. I think that the paint itself has a depth that drawing could never have – and needs to feed off the history of painting in some way. Drawing has difficulty not being about the craft - whereas with painting you can let yourself make mistakes that one never could with drawing: the act of making the mark seems so final. There is so much talk now about the ‘process’ of drawing – but ultimately I think the whole bloody thing is part of the process of being an artist… too much trying to pin everything down.. By the way, I would prefer to look at a Phil than a Clemente.
PA: I totally agree with you... Mistakes are really important and how you cope with them or navigate your way through them becomes a crucial part of painting. Painting talks about the "other" where as drawings seem to affirm the "now", and like you I am weary of the activity being pinned down. There seems to be a culture of "what’s your area of research or how does your work relate to a stated text?" I was teaching a few days ago on BA and it seems to me that students are required to outline an area of research first of all and then begin to make a visual simulation of that research. Now I'm sure for some students that is fine but a lot I talked to felt crippled by this notion of pinning down or defining their work before the process had started to get going. Now, I'm not advocating a position of ignorance, but in my experience a lot of the work I have made came from a hunch or a whim or from a position of pure speculation.
CK: “… In our own time the search for the supreme truth has been a search for some supremely acceptable fiction. Poets and painters alike make that assumption; it brings poetry and painting into relation as sources of our present conception of reality. It reaffirms a philosophical centre through which reality may be repossessed and re-created with poetic acts” Wallace Stevens, the American poet, wrote this. It ties into what we’re talking about I think: your ‘hunch, or whim’ – surely comes from a ‘philosophical centre’ which is about TRUSTING oneself, allowing one to be INFORMED by what one is making, where the act of drawing or painting is ahead of the brain, in some way? That the ‘search for the supreme truth’ of one’s work is just that: a search. For an unknown treasure… just like ‘detectiving’, as you said earlier on. It’s the SUBTLETY that can articulate the WHOLE – the basis of poetry, not essay writing, as is expected now it seems. Too many people are trying to tell the whole story. Making things is a dialogue between yourself and your potential to go beyond yourself: and witnessing a piece of art is a dialogue between the piece and what one brings to it as the viewer: in that way I truly believe that art works which rely on a ‘oh, I get it’ one liner, will never be profound, but just historical references for us to look back on. And why, obviously, painting will often be more profound than drawing, except in the way that drawings HINTS at something else as well – and, in the hand of someone who knows what he’s doing, can be one of the best forms of narrative, as the stories are clearer in some way… your felt-pen drawings, for example, are complete, really – snapshots almost – of ideas – of stories with unknown beginnings and endings…
PA: Making things is a dialogue between yourself and your potential to go beyond yourself... The difference between a statement and poetry... and this above is the crux of the matter. I like the "informed" by what one is making... this relates back to what I was saying about a feedback loop within the work... And again the subtleties in the work can articulate the whole. By the way... I saw the proof for the book of drawings and it looks pretty good.....165 drawings and not a word of text in sight. This leads me to an interesting thing though, which is printing or more precisely etching (I've just done this edition of etchings) which seems to me to be placed in a curious middle ground between the process or space of painting and drawing.
CK: Yes – I can see how that would be so. The marks are even more permanent than in drawing, but the application of inks makes for infinite possibilities. I look forward to seeing them – I’ve always been fascinated by the process of printmaking… it seems to connect to the past even more than painting or drawing, and of course seems very modern due to it’s nature as well… and the digital age bringing even more possibilities… the mind boggles. In my short experience with plates and inks I remember that the process itself was wonderful - the smell, most of all. And the ‘ta-dah!!!’ aspect at the end, of pulling the print off… is printmaking something that you are going to explore further?
PA: I have found etching a most enriching experience and want to continue with it as part of my practice. The interaction between intent and image is a curious one and as a process the possibilities seem endless. These etchings had no photographic references and again were inspired by my own iconography.
Alli Sharma in conversation with Phil Allen
Below is the full and recent conversation between Phillip Allen and Alli Sharma on Allen's recent trip to The British School at Rome. You can also read it here. Thanks to Alli for letting us post it!
Studio images courtesy of the artist.
Images of paintings courtesy of Transition Gallery, London (photography by Damian Griffiths).
PA: I’ve been there since the start of this year. I made some paintings, which have gone to a show in Bologna, and I did piles of drawings.
AS: There are familiar shapes and objects that crop up in the drawings.
PA: Yes, sometimes things appear, sometimes I make something out of something I’ve made before. How these worked is that I was out and about in Rome with a small book. I hadn’t worked like that before.
AS: It looks like a comic book; the way you’ve framed them.
PA: It was just a way of getting them down on a page. That framing has existed in the work one way or another; it’s an instinctive thing. Then, I quite literally work my way through these into felt tips. When you first move into your studio there’s that horrible thing about being in a white empty space. I didn’t do much work for the first three or four weeks. I thought I needed to fill the space up to feel a bit more at home and so this process evolved. I put things up and thought ok, this is mine, I can relax.
AS: Do you get a room to yourself?
PA: It’s an old place that looks like the British Museum. There’s a courtyard, then 8/9 artists are down one wing with your bed upstairs. Then there’s the library where the academics are. It felt like an open prison and a retirement home. You feel imprisoned, but you can go out and see Rome and do whatever and talk to the academics. That was fantastic. I spent a lot of time asking them things
AS: Did the trip have an impact on your practice?
PA: Maybe the things I did there had a superficial impact. I was out with my book because, in a sense, I had to; that’s what I was there for. Maybe the point is that there is no impact. I’m sure you’re affected by the experience but it wasn’t a hunt for something. It’s the people you meet which is the real thing; to meet others and to see what they’re up to and all of those things.
AS: Have you been productive since you got back?
PA: I’ve just started these prints. I came back and didn’t really want to paint. A few years ago I did some etchings and making prints has always been at the back of my mind. I was wondering what to do with the drawings and whether they were for printing or whether they were things for other ways of making work. So I’m in a real ‘I don’t know’ phase. But it’s nice to make and produce things and then, once you’ve got all the things in front of you, begin to think ‘right what am I doing’.
AS: The paintings you showed at Transition recently looked like something was being worked out on the canvas.
PA: They were made over a long period of time; that extra bit of whatever that I do alongside the main body of work.
AS: Do you go back and add or alter them over time?
PA: No, I make them in one go. I think once you begin to go back then it turns into something else. They’re things that can’t be re-done. They’re outside of the other bit of my practice. But then, once they’re seen, they get absorbed as part of your practice.
AS: Were you easy about showing them; if you put them to one side then is that because you don’t want people to see them.
PA: I think they were put to one side because I hadn’t worked out what they were. Jake Clark came round years ago and we were talking about them. Then I began to think about them. But it’s one of those things, as soon as you begin to think ‘I’m going to make one more’ then you can’t because, once you begin to conceptualise them as your work in that way, then all this other stuff comes in and it begins to turn into your work. In a way they were always detached or a different aspect. I began to think that I needed the main work, say The Approach show, to make sure that these other things exist in the way that they are surplus to the main body. But as soon as the surplus becomes the work then it alters. So I don’t know what I’ll do now. Once it turns into a work then it changes, it loses something at the same time.
AS: Your drawings; they’re something else too.
PA: For me, the drawings have to earn their keep. They’re things for me to use rather than making something. When I’m making paintings I know that I’m making something. The drawings are there to work for me; my nuts and bolts. Usually, this wall would be full of drawings. I think ‘this drawing works’ and then I make it into a painting. So you can look at the drawings and the paintings and say yes, that’s that one.
AS: That happened at your show at The Approach, you reached the end of the paintings and arrived at a wall of drawings. And you could match them up. So I was wondering about the process and I was a bit disappointed that the paintings had come directly from the drawings.
AS: Because I wanted your approach to the paintings to be more like your approach to the drawings and not so planned and worked out.
AS: I don’t know.
PA: I came into painting at art school doing that hard won image thing where you have a blank surface and then you’re painting and, through the process, something appears. I worked like that for a long time but I found it a frustrating process because nothing ever did happen. The mythological, hard won image never appeared. I was also questioning the whole notion of painting being this autonomous thing. And so the way I solved this problem was to know what to paint. The drawings came from that; from thinking that I needed to know what to do because, for my own personal state of mind, I can’t just approach a blank canvas. For a long time I felt that I didn’t want to show the drawings alongside the paintings, because once you show them you begin to demystify the whole process, and then I thought, well so what.
AS: I like that.
PA: Painting isn’t a mystery. It can be quite a pragmatic thing. You can still approach a painting in the same way, but it’s come from this; this is its real source. The paintings aren’t made in a kind of Jonathan Lasker way where I photocopy and blow it up. They’re drawn then painted. Other things happen, slight variations, but I need the drawing in front of me.
AS: Your combination of colours, with gold and silver can be quite, well, I love the word vulgar, but I’m hesitant about using it.
PA: I like the word; you won’t offend me. I guess they come from the felt tips. I’ve used a lot of silver. It’s enamel paint. I think I like it because it’s not oil paint.