Richard Phillips


These paintings are inspired, in part, by phone-sex ads from the late '70s and early '80s, which I discovered in a sex shop in Cologne. There is also a painting inspired by an image of the fashion designer Valentino from 1982, which was sent to me as a birthday card. The size of the canvases amplifies the confrontational nature of the women's expressions— stadium volume of color and surface as opposed to the personal easel model. Although the paintings are on a near-billboard scale, the methods I use to paint them are well within the tradition of figurative oil painting used since the 18th century. Photorealistic art strove to create a conceptual impression of mechanical representation; I try to give my paintings a sensual presence of paint as it relates to the physical beauty of these women. Oil paint was developed for this purpose, and it's my intention to exploit this relationship to the fullest degree.

In this group, Valentino is surrounded by women who do not benefit from his gifts. His own acute attention to the maintenance of his celebrity profile stands in contrast to the anonymous women whose dignity, contempt, and humanity rest in their ability to manage their own appearances. The magazines that inspire these pictures are often records of impersonal human activity, where visions are created to promote commerce in the sex and rag trades. Fashion images for me are the foundation from which we construct our complex, often deliberately contradictory representations of the world. In 1995, I began to explore abstract relationships with paintings as art using the power and emptiness of '60s and '70s fashion layouts as my image base. My most recent work upends the safety of the druglike detachment of the early fashion-inspired work to expose a more direct connection between exploitation and our outward physical reality.