Phillip Thomas, ‘Family Reunion’, RJD Gallery

Phillip Thomas approaches his work as a “meta-archeologist”. His paintings are reliquaries gleaned from the monuments of Western art history. This proposes an injection of another world into the work’s original narrative. This world is of a different time and place, conjured out of Thomas’ careful attention to the Caribbean climate of his birth and the multifaceted contemporary culture he now exists in. It is derived from his polygamous cultural identity as a young man raised in a place still steeped in aspects of colonialism. The notion of “master- piece” becomes a metaphor for his re-appropriation of the Canon and the role of blacks in its imagery. He takes control of the balance of power through radical re-interpretations of the gems of European painting – Turner, Ribera, et al. the heroic is thus made intimate and made dense with beauty and a cultural tapestry. “The idea of studying at a “French Academy” in the United States is entrenched in cross-cultural pollination. (I) Intend to manufacture cultural reliquaries, artifacts and social curiosities that represent the cultural tapestry of the Caribbean and the wider “new world”, using mediums and other agents of the old world.”

About Phillip Thomas

In his oil paintings and mixed-media works, artist Philip Thomas combines the imagery and traditions of the Old Masters with contemporary textures and patterns to create a new iconography. As a starting point for these cross-cultural conversations, Thomas looks to the model of the French academies, plucking techniques (like oil painting on stretched canvas) and imagery (such as toreadors in elaborate costumes, silhouetted portraits, elaborately staged arrangements of figures) not only as formal elements, but also as relics of art history, offering a statement on colonialism and its aftermath, especially in his native Caribbean. “You want a way to lure people into the image, and then it unfolds itself, like a very slow car crash,” he says. “I try in many ways to present the audience to themselves.”

Jamaican, b. 1980, Kingston, Jamaica, based in New York, New York