funtimes in babylon
Remember the times in your early teens when basically anything that could be slightly related or turned into a sexual allusion was downright hilarious? When unexpected creative highs got channeled through offensive neologisms and outrageous e-mail addresses on Yahoo? Where days were filled with obscenities, penis drawings and daydreams about losing your virginity in the most awesome way possible? Well, Dublin-based Philip Gerald certainly does, and luckily he isn’t sparing us the fantastic results.
It would be foolish to reduce Gerald’s work to being this crude freak-show only because there actually is method to his madness, as his paintings - which he actually skilfully recreates analog from sloppy digital drawings - can also easily be read as a comment on today’s ridiculous Fine Art circuit. He succeeds in holding up the mirror to the highbrow art world via a rather unapologetic tongue-in-cheek approach in both, subject matter and artistic implementation. It’s a tiny bit ironic that his work is starting to turn more than just a few heads these days, as invitations to internationally showcase his work in galleries is piling up. Lodown had a quick chit-chat with the Irish artist in mid May.
“There's a pointlessness to what I do that I really like“
Philip, what made you decide to get your hands onto painting? Did it start as a rather accidental love affair?
I used to think painting was really fucking boring. Before I dropped out of art college I was studying sculpture and expanded practice. My work then was mostly performance based but then that became boring, too. A few years later I started painting again and it wasn't as boring as I remembered... and I figured I could have an okay time doing this. So I kept doing it.
What made you decide to transfer your paintings from the digital realms onto canvas?
I've always been drawn to crappy digital aesthetics, which I think is a natural byproduct of growing up in the age of shitty clip art and Microsoft paint. I think a lot of people in my generation share the same sentimentality about early computer drawing software or whatever. There's a pointlessness to what I do that I really like. The digital drawing I start with can be endlessly reworked in Photoshop - it's infinite in a way. Transferring it onto canvas takes its limitlessness and limits it but what's most interesting for me is that fact that it makes you look at cheap digital aesthetics in a new way. People are undoubtedly less precious with the digital because it’s so disposable. So once it’s translated, the digital is elevated by the preciousness of canvas.
Your art can easily be seen as taking the piss out of the current art circuit and its daily antics... how do you feel when you get invited to showcase your paintings through exhibitions?
Yeah, I totally understand how I can come across that way because I don't take my work all that seriously at all. The only one who's getting the piss taken out of them is me, by me. I think how someone views my work is more of a reflection of their ideas of what they're comfortable with. Some people seem to love my work which is cool. Some people can't seem to stomach it at all, which is also cool. I think a reaction or an acknowledgement is all I'm looking for.
“I think how someone views my work is more of a reflection of their ideas of what they're comfortable with.“
What’s the reason for integrating Nike’s Swoosh and the (formerly) ridiculously hyped Anti Social Social Club into the scenes?
A large part of art for me is responding to experience, often in a really direct way. So for me to include branding was as simple as being confronted by the fact that I saw branding so much that I didn't see a reason not to include it. There was a point where I was seeing Anti Social Social Club everywhere... so I just put it in my work a bunch. But sometimes it even just adds an element of reliability. Like right now, I'm working on a painting and I decided to paint my Nike slides because I'd been wearing them while I worked.
I love that the characters you draw seem to have the time of their lives... would you say that we’re missing out on the simple pleasures life is offering way too many times?
It's actually not something I think about too much. The most important thing for me is to always have fun while I work and I do and I'm pretty sure people pick up on that and they seem to enjoy it.
Did fashion and streetwear brands already knock on your door, asking for collaborations?
Not yet... and to be honest it kind of hurts my feelings.
So what’s next for you?
I've got a few good group shows coming up for the rest of the year and some interesting stuff planned for 2020 that I'm really excited to get working on. I'm gonna take a few months at the end of the year to try to expand my work beyond painting. I've got a bunch of ideas I need to test. I've been really interested in 3D printing lately and it’s something I might want to try before the year is out.