The well established Toronto and Miami based artist provided a fresh take on his background, and his unique approach to painting. Brad Phillips tackles the canvas with themes of addiction, mental illness, the irony of our contemporary world of marketing, and tone of sensuality and sexuality. As a writer, he utilizes the written word to compliment his painted œuvre. Like many artists, the presence of art in his life feels like it has always been there, as he words it below. As you continue scrolling, take a moment and pause to contemplate each painting against its title, and attempt to see beyond into the artist himself.
Cristine in Red Dress, 2020, oil on canvas, 10 x 8 in. Courtesy of the Artist and De boer Gallery
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did art first enter your life?
I was born in Miami Beach in 1976. My parents were on vacation, and I was born prematurely. We returned to Toronto soon after where I lived until I was 28. I moved to Vancouver that year, then returned to Toronto in 2013 where I now live most of the year. My father worked in advertising so I was constantly given pads and pens and pencils and coloured pencils and different types of paper, which I immediately took to. My mother told me that when I was three I said I wanted to be a ‘cartoonist’. So, I guess this is how it entered my life, and I’ve known that I wanted to, and have been, making art for around forty-four years now.
A Limited Edition Print with Exhibition with Moroccan Rug, 2021, oil on canvas 40 x 30 in. Courtesy of the Artist and De boer Gallery
Tell us about your stylistic approach. Do you have a preferred form of craft?
If I were more comfortable with different ways of making things, then I’d probably be using more mediums to make work. But painting, writing and photography are the things I use/do.
I wrote somewhere recently that intuition is God, so I operate from that position. I don’t have any ideas or plans for what I will make. Essentially I’m a photographer. I take hundreds and hundreds of photos every week. Of everything. I’ve sometimes exhibited photography, but I think photography is sort of dead/solved, save a few photographers working today who are trying to advance the form. But for me exhibiting a photograph sort of feels analogous to exhibiting a Cubist painting; it’s nostalgic, a way of decorating a solved and revered problem. Almost all contemporary photographs seen in galleries are essentially homages to photographs that already exist.
Cristine in My Camo Shirt, April 2020, 2020, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 in. Courtesy of the Artist and De boer Gallery
I paint from my own photographs when I make ‘realistic’ paintings. I just see a photo that would clearly be better as a painting, then I paint it. There’s typically some sentimental element to the image, and I think I enjoy translating a photograph into a painting because it allows me to spend more time with a meaningful image. Mostly all my paintings are drawn from my personal life; paintings of my wife , things around my house, books I’m reading etc. Occasionally I’ll work from appropriated imagery if I’ve been thinking about or absorbed in something that inspires me, which is exclusively American entertainment media. I’ve exhibited videos occasionally when the idea I have is unsuited to painting or writing. Writing is also just a different vehicle for the delivery of ideas. Whatever idea I have, I just decide how it’s best expressed, through painting, writing, photography, or video. The text based paintings I make which are wholly unlike my figurative paintings are just smaller, simpler ways of writing, that also allow me to make colour field paintings.
I feel like I should say that for me the most important part of my work is ambiguity, particularly as related to Henry Kissinger’s doctrine of ‘constructive ambiguity’. This is extremely important to me.
Cristine in Stripes, 2020, oil on canvas, 12 x 9 in. Courtesy of the Artist and De boer Gallery
What is your process like? How do you begin a work?
The experience of living through each day is the only thing I could call ‘process’ and seems like the wrong word. Other than I just sit down and make the thing my mind tells me is worth making without letting myself get bogged down by a search for meaning. The meaning is always revealed to me later.
Cristine in the Corner of the Hotel, Room, 2021, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. Courtesy of the artist and De boer Gallery
Walk us through a day in the studio.
This is a very brief, low-energy walk. I wake up, I have a ritualized morning involving food and correspondence. I look at videos on YouTube of Top 5 Unsolved Murders, or Top 5 Mysterious Disappearances, and I play Scrabble on a website called isc.ro where I’ve played for 24 years. Then I just sit and paint or sit and write. If I sit and write I need to be quiet. If I sit in paint, I can listen to music, documentaries or other mundane content from YouTube, sit in silence, or interact/talk with my wife, who’s typically working nearby herself.
Cristine with Vintage Wallpaper, 2020, oil on canvas, 12 x 9 in. Courtesy of the artist and De boer Gallery
From where do you draw inspiration?
The experience of having been born into this body in this lifetime at this moment in history.
Getting Dressed to Meet the Parents, Deauville Hotel, Room 413, Miami, Aug., 2015, 2020-2021, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist and De boer Gallery
What’s your favorite curse word?
No Gods No Masters, 2021, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Courtesy of the Artist and De boer Gallery
If you could have three people over for dinner, dead or alive, who would it be?
My dad, Billy Crystal and Susan Sontag. All dead.
Showing Off, 2015, oil on canvas, 10 x 8 in. Courtesy of the Artist and De Boer Gallery
Does your work reference any Art Historical movements?
Sinia Divinas with Incongruous Shadows / Our First Time at the Royal Ontario Museum, 2020, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Courtesy of the Artist and De boer Gallery
What’s next for you?
I have a show at deboer Gallery in Los Angeles in a week. I’m finishing my first novel, provisionally titled Stop Dying, which follows a short story collection I published in 2019 called Essays & Fictions. That’s all I know about, but others may know more than me.
Untitled, 2020, oil on canvas, 18 x 14 in. Courtesy of the Artist and De boer Gallery
At the end of each interview we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love, and would like us to interview next. Who would you recommend?
Brad Phillips 2020, 2020, oil on canvas, 16 x 12 in. Courtesy of the Artist and De boer Gallery