I’ve always been fascinated with crappy digital aesthetics. I think my style is actually a direct response to my ability and maybe some of my views on art in general. I think art should be somewhat easy. You can try, or you can not try,” says artist Philip Gerald. “I chose not to try that hard because I didn’t know if I was going to keep painting. So, instead of trying to get better, I thought I should just lean into the fact that I wasn’t going to be blowing people out of the water with mad painting skills any time soon, or ever – I just wanted a reaction.”
Self-deprecating as he may be, the Dublin-based painter is starting to make a name for himself. With shows coming up in Valencia, Amsterdam and London, Philip’s garish, tongue-in-cheek art is turning some heads. And it’s no surprise given the lurid aesthetic of his work.
Made up of acrylic paintings on canvas which boast a strikingly fluorescent palette, his oeuvre is as unapologetic in appearance as it is in subject matter. With the latter bearing motifs of urine, faeces, naked figures, appropriated branding and “bootlegged” scenes, Philip’s work feels like a rebellion against highbrow art. However, he explains that it’s simply just a style he fell into. “I studied sculpture at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. I dropped out in my third year because I was expected to make sculpture – which is a completely understandable expectation for someone studying the subject – but all I wanted to do was write,” he jokes. “Anyway, I wrote a book about surrogacy in the future and I started painting, which is something I never really saw myself doing because I don’t think I can paint, but my writing was asking for some visual cues, so I just went with it. I suppose, now that I think about it, I didn’t really get into painting per se – painting got into me.”
Running with this newfound interest, Philip devised a way to transform the artwork from digital to analogue. Starting in Photoshop, he draws with the trackpad to decrease the control he has of his linework, sometimes even using his left hand to make sure the piece “comes out as dodgy as possible”. From there, he projects this rough and ready plan straight onto the canvas, where he will take up his brushes and begin to paint.
It’s a transitional process that Philip says he finds very enjoyable: “I think there’s something really nice about the translation of a crappy digital drawing to a canvas. In a post-digital age, programs like Photoshop are infinite and spaceless in a way,” he explains. “Recreating these disposable images on canvas elevates it beyond the throwaway and makes them precious again. The drawing starts off limitless and then I go and limit it again by painting it on canvas. When I think about it, it’s completely pointless, but I kind of like that.”
It’s this nonsensical, instinctive approach that Philip believes is the only intentional and, by extension, defining part of his work. The playful questioning of his own sincerity has become something that he thrives off. “I have this ongoing series where I just bootleg paintings which I started because I had run out of ideas for original work and it was a way for me to keep going,” he says. “I mean, I’m kind of phoning it in, but at the same time there’s a whole history of bootlegged artwork so, you know, it’s cool. There are other things I’m interested in too, that haven’t quite made it into my work yet, but eventually they’ll find their way in there.”
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.