Pop culture, fashion and art are three of our favourite things, so we are very excited about the new exhibition opening at White Cube tonight. ‘Most Wanted’, is a collection of paintings by New York artist Richard Phillips. Phillips’ distinctive paintings are created using traditional, large scale oil techniques, but their subject matter is a little more 21st century...
Using found imagery of some faces you might just recognise, this artist addresses the marketability of our wishes, identity, politics, sexuality and mortality. He thus examines the iconic nature of pictures, which the media and art world use daily – each according to its own agenda.
Captions are not necessary for these portraits of some of the world's most recognisable young stars, all illuminated by a coloured halo which references Richard Bernstein’s illustrations from Interview magazine. They are depicted against ‘step and repeat’ backdrops, or "backboards" which display a variety of luxury brand logos and are what is used to promote brands atred carpet events. There is more than a touch of the 'trading card' about these images - 10 points for a Momsen, you get the idea!
Another interesting paradox thrown up by Philips' use of a laborious, old-fashioned painting style is that the time it takes for him to produce and present one of these artworks totally conflicts with the normal light speed at which we are used to consuming celebrity images. Also, by allowing them to be posted all over the Internet, he is returning the images back to their original context. It's a mind-bending concept. He also exaggerates the rehearsed element to these familiar red-carpet poses with the intensity of colour and size of canvas (fancy seeing R-Patzz's face 2 metres high? Oh, go on then.)
I will be checking out these paintings in the flesh, so to speak, tonight and will be happy to report back on just how accurate Leo Dicaprio's eyelashes are, or if Philips has got Taylor Swift's sparkling earrings just so. Not that I have seen the real thing to judge them against, but I have a feeling these portraits will be the closest a civilian can get to the A-list!
*POST EVENT UPDATE*
'Most Wanted' was the hottest ticket in London town last night; the gallery was heaving with beautiful, creative types and the exhibition looked stunning. With the male portraits lined up on one wall and the females on the other, the visual impact of these vibrant images was huge - although this is partly due to the collective effect of all ten paintings shown in one space. I particularly enjoyed the smaller pastel sketches that Philips had also displayed, mini versions of the final products, which gave you an insight into his work process. There was a crowd gathered around the Zac 'ridiculous eyelashes' Efron portrait, but my personal favourite was the Taylor Swift for sheer beauty and attention to detail.
Fashion spot: One of my favourite people in the world dropped by, the goddess-like Florence Welch, looking incredible in a cobalt dress. Here she is with the artist himself:
Richard Philips and the beautiful Flo
Images: Richard Philips/White Cube/Getty