A blog by Bradley Phillips

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Barnaby Ward

Mike Mitchell

A picture is worth a thousand words.
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Charles Burchfield -A Space Odyssey

The Burchfield Penny Art Center here in buffalo is ending its exhibition Heat Waves In A Swamp, paintings by Charles Burchfield in 2 weeks. It is free to Buffalo State students and only $5 for others students. The gallery has set up the exhibition chronologically, and the walk through the gallery is a visual journey through the life of Charles Burchfield.

Charles early watercolor work is simple, so simple in fact it reminds me of the type of work one might see at a high school art show. While it might be easy to brush off these works, they gallery makes a distinct effort to place emphasis on them. Each image is accompanied by a small insight taken from messages by Charles to the then MoMA curator Alfred Barr. It quickly becomes evident the importance of these images. To me what separates them from high school art is their content relevance. While a student spends much of their time searching for a style and subject matter that fits his or her prose, Charles early work touches on 3 majors topics that would define his work through out his life. The first being medium, second being the his expression of the human condition, and third his perspective and connection to nature (this one is important because some interesting things start going on in his work based on this topic).

His work, while progressing in visual style, hits a division that is clearly noticeable and seems almost odd at first. It is his fanciful landscapes that he is known for, but within his work are a few pieces that almost seem reminiscent of Edward Hopper. Edward's potential influence is questionable, however within these watercolor paintings is a connection with his "classic" work that took me some time to unravel. The key for me to understanding these almost separate pieces was having a lifetime of works at my immediate viewing disposal. Among his classically styled works are a number that focus on storms and weather but more specifically the condition of nature, almost like a parallel to the condition of man. Once one can understand that Charles's connection to nature is one much like the connection to a friend; sharing mutual affection, bond, sympathy and trust it becomes evident of his intention to subjectively exemplify both the beauty of nature, the terror of nature, and the horror of mans industrial affect on nature. Because it is this juxtaposition of the tragic and depressive with the beauty and character of nature that bonds the two styles together.

On a side note, anyone who has read C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy will greatly appreciate the fanciful quality of Charles work.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The meeting points of machine and nature

I have been drawing lately. Now that I'm putting pen to paper again it is reminding me of how long it has been since doing it last with the intent to just draw. Usually I only sketch out images I plan on shooting which are... VERY rough. However I used to love to draw, Its all I did in high school. I would take the paper book covers you would get at the beginning of school and turn them inside out so that the outside of my books where blank. Then I would proceed to spend the entire year trying to make drawings that would connect in various ways until the book was completely covered -effectively keeping my books closed all year. I often wish I had held on to some of those book covers - I digress.

In any case I started a sketch in which a bonsai like tree is suspended in air, its roots dangling down beneath it. Within the roots are three cogs or gears acting as the heart of the tree. I'll post the image when I have finished it. While making the drawing I wondered what bonsai tree roots look like, so I google'd it. Right there on the first page was this image of a Steven Panarelli wire sculpture tree, something I had to share. After exploring the parent site I could not help but be drawn to Stevens sculptures. They have such fantastic movement to them. Even though each one is fatalistically tied to the foundation upon which it stands, the branches, and sometimes roots, reach out in fanciful ways. The sculptures where the roots are visible seem far more effective at displaying this relationship between reality and myth. I find the the symbolism between the purpose of the roots and the purpose of branches and leafs fascinating. Both the leaf and the root together allow trees to be completely self sustaining, exhibiting a perfect flow of energy. The art of balance, Feng Shui, practiced on a tree cannot be mere coincidence.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Great quote about the work of Eriwn Wurm

"Art so often is burdened by its self-declared importance: look I am so meaningful. Here art seems to be at ease: playful and light-handed."
-Zoltan Jokays on Erwin Wurm

Yesterday I received an email from the University at Buffalo accepting me into their MFA program. Needless to say I am very excited! I feel all my hard work has been validated. For a while I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life (career), and after applying to graduate school on a whim last year and not getting in, I found myself realizing what I had missed out on. I hope my time at UB will enlightening, and productive.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I do not remember how I stumbled on Michael Salter's work. A screen shot of what I came across has been sitting on my desktop for months now. Today I was clearing my desktop of unnecessary files and found it again. Michael's work is pretty neat, he is a Digial Art Professor at the University of Oregon and he builds awesome robots out of packaging foam, he calls them "styrobots". What I really like about them is their size, though not all are huge, he has made them up to 22 ft tall. Another cool thing is they are so impractical as a aesthetic art, while stunning to see, they are made of a material that is in no way archival and the larger ones are so big you would need a room simply dedicated to its awesomeness. But what really draws me to them is how fun they are, while a giant robot made from the by product of modern consumerism has a load of meaning and depth, they are exciting to see and enjoy. Sometimes I forget to enjoy art, because it is so often used as a forum to debate and express ideas on life, death, politics, the human condition etc... bla bla bla (all important ideas and uses) But a reason we all make art aside from its purpose is enjoyment of making it.

HERE is a short video of a team assembling one of his giant "styrobots" at San Jose Museum of Art as part of the exhibit Robots:evolution of a Cultural Icon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I've come across a few really great artists lately who are not photographers. This got me thinking about a question Scott Chandler posed "what is the difference between an artist who uses photography as a medium and a photographer." I would like to believe that we are all artists and typecasting us to our chosen / current medium is a travesty. However I feel the real insult is how photography can be neglected as art. (just some food for thought)

In any case here is the work of Brian M. Viveros. Brian's work is dark and iconic. Though each image presents a heroine in various states of macabre, each are decorated with a flower, a cigarette, and various military garb. Although beautiful, the images seem to express a less glamorous side of life - to the point of being a presentation of a pauperized or war consumed society.