In the same vein as Mickalene Thomas, Ebony Patterson, and Kehinde Wiley, Jamaican-born painter Phillip Thomas’ Old Master-inspired portraits depict silhouetted or erased figures of young men of color posturing in colonial finery or contemporary designer suits. Interested in the influences of post-colonial power on the Caribbean, his choice of subjects and his direct quotations of paintings by masters Turner, Ribera, and Velazquez allows the artist’s project to become more than just a questioning of conventions of portraiture. Thomas describes his portraits as artifacts of art history, as “archeological responses” to colonialism, asking his viewer to imagine an art historical canon where these types of images of men of color existed.
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