A Rising And Falling Of Lights

Header: Philippa Beardsley, [Work in progress], acrylic on wood panel, 18″x27.5″, 2015. Image: Jenna Buckingham.

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Installation shot from Philippa Beardsley’s studio.

Image: Jenna Buckingham.


Mad Libs Artist Statement by Philippa Beardsley…

My work is both an investigation of and lack of geometry.

Can a horse see color theory? I don’t think so. She doesn’t care.

Surreal is a place? I am into the surreal.

Sticks are very important. The many shapes they have helped me flesh out a surface.
Fire usually brings to mind orange and reds. The fluidity of ink and the taste of salt keep me going.

I wear earrings in the hopes of never and sometimes losing them.

Lovers, an image that has invaded my work.

I think about the ground and press it with my feet.

My goal is to remain or return to being an animal when I work. I have my doubts. Dissection of small frog sized paintings? I prefer an open ended conclusion, or I thought I did.

Shaving gets in the way of painting. I always order french fries because I do not eat them at home.

Telepathy is only one way of communication.

I believe in migration. While running, I prefer the smell of the woods and to think about birds.

If I could do anything, It would be surfing on the moon.

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Philippa Beardsley, [Detail of Fence], acrylic and mixed media on wood panel, 6.5″x11″, 2014.

Image: Jenna Buckingham.

Interview with Artist Philippa Beardsley April 19, 2016

HIWP: How do relationships (or relating) come into play in your work as an artist? How do they come into play in the process of making?

I try to have relationships come into play without imposing too much on them. That’s what I go for, meaning I’m looking for something fresh or a connection between things I didn’t see before, or wasn’t obvious to me. The goal lately is to find new relationships, or unexpected connections, as a means of investigating a subject. I usually go back and forth between an idea or image in mind, to letting go of it and responding to the materials. I guess a painting to me is finding new relationships between things that maybe don’t make sense on one level. I absorb information that I am interested in, like parts of buildings, how someone walks, scenes that are in a movie…other paintings, and then going to work and making something that is a bunch or a few of those things reshuffled or collaged. So taking in and putting back out.

HIWP: How would you describe your relationship with paint, mediums, and surfaces? What is the significance of the physical contact (the application of paint)?

With surfaces, either with the cigar boxes or with the wood, I take those apart, and then I used the top or the bottom, I play with the frame of those and then have the wood panel to go on top of that. So I am working within a frame on that surface. I like to do that and I like to work on something that is less of a frame. And that would be more so with paper where I am making drawings were I add onto them, and I am not confined to edges or corners. It is a reverse of what I do with the wood. But I mostly work on the wood right now. And I like to cut out my own shapes and tack those to the wall.

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Philippa Beardsley, [Study], charcoal on wood, 9″x10″, 2016.

Image: Jenna Buckingham. 

HIWP: Do you have an idea of what will be painted, like the top painting, when you are making the shape? 

Well, sometimes as I am making the surface for it, I think, well I want it to be this big, and yellow. But that’s pretty broad and it usually goes on from there. Only once in a while is it like, oh this is it and that’s what I want. More it is wanting to play with different shapes inside of other ones and then see what kind of images come from that.

HIWP: Are the figures presumed, assumed, or do they invoke the “instances” in your paintings?

All those things. For a while I kept drawing and painting separate from each other. Sometimes you don’t want people there and sometimes you do. I think when I have them there, they are very much part of the space, but then they sometimes come out of it. They are not necessarily fading away all the time. I also like to play with what a figure is. I am interested in disappearing and reappearing figures, or point of view: like something that feels like a figure but could also be a pair of binoculars or foliage around the edges of an opening landscape.

HIWP: Are any of the relationships, when the figures are relating with each other, is that having anything to do with things that you recall? Interactions from your life, or things that you’ve seen?

Yes. Sometimes personal, sometimes like from watching people on the subway. I guess I look for things that might look the same or feel the same in many different situations. Some things could be from personal experiences, or from watching from a distance. I think its about getting interested in some sense of space, and then looking for that interaction.


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Philippa Beardsley, [Untitled], children’s school book cover and green binder, 11.6″x8″, 2014.

HIWP: Do you feel like screens, such as computer screens, come into play? I know in your MFA thesis critique they talked a lot about that.

I definitely feel like I’m influenced by photos taken or movie shots. I look at a lot of that. And I like that type of cropping. I guess I don’t really ever freeze the screen and look at it. I just sort of watch a movie and then, from memory, think of a moment that gets focused on. But its still something that’s been put there by a lens or a screen. It is a position or an interaction you wouldn’t experience in the real world.

HIWP: Still a cinematic moment.


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Philippa Beardsley, Grass Eater (work in progress), acrylic on wood, 14.5″x21.5″, 2016. Image: Jenna Buckingham.


Yeah, that type of image exists because of a camera.

HIWP: I also always think of how much the colors remind me of photography. I guess because of black. 

Yeah, black and its flatness is part of photography.

HIWP: I was thinking about the Internet while I was taking pictures of your work. Because of the way you have things set up, it is a lot of looking at many images and receiving so much different information. But I don’t have the same anxiety as when I’m on the Internet.

Sometimes they give me anxiety and I take things down. When I feel like I can’t see what I’m looking at. But I group things in particular ways. None of these are done, and would never be shown in this arrangement here. Sometimes I can’t even look at something anymore and when that happens, I turn them around. I like them, but they’re not quite there yet, so I don’t want to make any decisions because I don’t understand something yet.

Or because I have some idea of what a painting is and that interferes with what I put down. When everything’s considered, it’s an idea of finish. I think: how are you getting the most from it? It doesn’t always have to be a finished product, but something that is going to be useful to you later on. You do something, and you think, there’s something about this that I didn’t do before and I don’t know what it means, and you aren’t going to finish it off, but you’re going to keep it and look at it for a while. Like you are keeping everything, like in a laboratory. Or maybe like a desk, with papers and drawings and plans.

HIWP: It feels like, for artists, there is always something you’re after. It seems like it just takes a lifetime to get there, or longer! You are just always after something…and are going after it in different ways…

…and learning new things about it, making new connections, expanding.

HIWP: A workshop?

Yeah a workshop, I think that’s a good word!

HIWP: I realize the other reason I think of photography is because sometimes I’ll glance at a work really quickly and I’ll think that I see a photographic image. And then I’ll look back and see that its a very organic image.

Sometimes I’ll look at a painting and think that its very sharp and in-focus. And then I’ll look at it again and if feels like the whole thing is disintegrating. I guess you just have to ask yourself what it is that you want. And I think I do want conflicting things to be happening. I think about perception, and how things change. I think that’s what I like about memory, how its always changing. Even if you are walking down the street, and you aren’t paying a lot of attention to the world, and you see the sun and you see a street light and there’s no difference because you’re not differentiating the objects in your mind. And size too. Like with shared memories: for one person something wasn’t that big, but for another, it was huge. It doesn’t matter the size, it’s just how you remember it. So that means, that is how you are understanding it.


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Left: Philippa Beardsley, [Work in progress], acrylic on wood, 20.75″x28.5″, 2015. Right: Philippa Beardsley, [Work in progress], acrylic on wood, 23″x23″, 2016. Image: Jenna Buckingham.

Because your memory is always affected by so many other things, but you do remember how it was – to you – at that time. But then I heard somewhere that every time you remember something, the memory gets farther and farther away. It changes. I think it is because you change. If you’re changing and and you remember something, it changes as you change.

I like to think I can be objective. But I don’t know if it’s even helpful to be objective.

HIWP: I feel like if someone is emotional or upset, I think they certainly aren’t seeing things clearly, and I trust them less.

I think I can trust someone if they are emotional. I think what I don’t trust is when everything black and white. When nothing’s gray. If someone says: this is all bad, and this is all good…I have a hard time trusting that.


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Philippa Beardsley, [Detail of Please Take Me Home], acrylic and mixed media, 7.5″x11.5″, 2015. Image: Jenna Buckingham.

Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting…our commonest deeds are set about with a fluttering and flickering of wings, a rising and falling of lights.

Virginia Woolf Orlando