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The Artist Philip Mount has enjoyed a successful career drawing, illustrating and painting, producing large scale works for corporate and private clients since first being represented by a gallery at 17. Explorer Magazine spoke to Philip now 35, about his career so far...
Tell us about the beginnings...
I sketched all the time, excessively; city streets, bars clubs, everything, all the time... for the love of it, but it was probably an obsession as well, after a while everything began to look like it was made out of lines.
How did this develop into 'work'?
I guess I got my abilities up and people recognised it. One of the first galleries I approached took me on and within a few weeks I was flying out to Germany for a commission (Architects 'Taesi' Europe) and then I had an exhibition to return to... I also found a good agent. I was lucky.
And you also started doing illustrations for the newspapers?
My first illustrative work was in1996 for the London Evening standard, for their restaurant page. I worked there for a few years drawing bars and restaurants - back then I liked to drink... and eat - so it was a fun job, I was doing three different bars in one day and night clubs too. During this time I was also working at The Houses of Parliament, I had a four year commission documenting Portcullis House - I guess it was an historical assignment because I was the first artist contracted by the House of Commons to draw changes on the Estate since Turner and his Great Fire paintings of 1834.
Tell us about your drawings
Mostly I work with ink line, I love the quality of nib pen line, when used rapidly it can leave a beautiful and largely unpredictable trail, it's pin point accurate but also messy, I love that. Sometimes I use watercolour with the line, being careful not to destroy the line by detracting from it or overpowering it. I trained in watercolour for many years, until I was completely comfortable with the medium and I'd learned the basics of drawing; for me that was measurement, line, structure, shape and then came colour, which was the next big thing for me. That's really when the paintings began, when I felt qualified to explore colour... and confident enough to let go of the line.
And the paintings, they're dramatically different from the drawings...
I can see the progression but some find it difficult... the drawings inform the paintings, they help. I couldn't compose the structure of a painting with confidence if I couldn't understand shape. And the negative space too, that's in the paintings and the drawings, I like white, it reminds us it's an illusion, that the work began as nothing, just blank space. They're about colour, shapes symbols, making marks, directly and indirectly, letting the paint take over so they become non - contrived yet hanging on to the threads of conscious intention, so that they have personal meaning and reason.
Each painting has a voice, a sound to it - it's beach, it's sky, it's sea, it's city also. It's all mixed up in there if you... look for a while. There's also a lot of movement which I always try to deal with in both my paintings and my drawings, so that they're alive.
The scale is something else...
I like big! (Although I've begun working on some smaller pieces...) I think after working on paper for so long and dealing with the limitations of scale it has been a relief to work on very large scale paintings. Giant abstract painting can be a real thrill for someone with a love for colour and mark. Marks can be made on a large scale which are just not possible working small. I need to know about those marks, to learn, to explore... Also it can be very physical, I like that too. I like to move around.
Why so much time in the States?
Since 2000 I've been spending an ever increasing amount of time in the US. After the 2002 'New York' exhibition I was ready for a new view of things and headed west to California, where I got an introduction from a UK agent, kindly putting me in touch with one of Ed Ruscha's staff. I made a presentation of my artwork to her and she suggested I contact LA Louver gallery - I loved it there, all of it - also I was lucky to meet up and spend time with great artists there. They were people I could look up to and understand, I valued what they were doing with colour, how they were still moving colour on in theory and in practice. Artists like Larry Bell, Ken Price, Ed Moses they have colour in their blood.
And at present you're based..?
I've just completed a commission in New York and have some further plans there over the next few months, but I'm hoping to get a good balance between dividing my time between London, LA and New York; the Art community is very small, I want to familiarise myself with as much of it as possible before making a more localised and long term commitment, which I feel is coming pretty soon...