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But should you denounce his art because of that? No, and for many reasons.
It is not often that an artist is able to subvert his form in such a way that allows him to rise naked, disoriented and alone from the rubble of what is considered “art”, and ascend into his own personal and disturbingly original realm of creativity. Canadian artist Brad Phillips can be considered a case of artistic individuality and integrity that strays from common conceptions of contemporary art…and he drags his viewers along, gagged and bound – with every piece he presents.
Phillips currently resides and works in Ontario, but his work has been lauded from coast to coast in his home country of Canada, as well as stretching from New York to London to Zurich to Berlin, and most recently, to Oslo, Norway.
What makes Phillips’ art so enticing? The gritty, witty, strung-out honesty with which he presents his pieces surely has something to do with its effectiveness. His most recent exhibition at Oslo’s Rod Biano Gallery, entitled “Honeymoon Rehearsal”, is an extremely intimate and personal journey into an evening with Phillips and his lover, presented as a series of photos taken by the artist. These photos range from images of dying flowers pinned to the ceiling, close up shots of his partner tied down and blindfolded, and disheveled beds littered with BDSM gear. While the content of the exhibition in relation to its title is indeed humourous, when the viewer spends time digesting each of the pieces included in the set of photographs, a certain tenderness blossoms in an extremely voyeuristic and confessional way.
Voyeurism and confessional-influenced art are clearly overlapping tropes within the art of Phillips. He touches not only on photography, but also delves into the realm of oil and watercolour paintings, drawings, and writing pieces for numerous publications, including a novella published this year called Suicidal Realism. In all of his outputs, Phillips leans against seemingly sinister and taboo themes: sex, self-harm, suicide and an overarching sense of madness and cynicism. His subjects are dark, but Phillips manages to highlight them with his incredible use of a satirical voice: you too can consider using the phrase “blow-job-less-ness” on a daily basis after flicking through the various signs and phrases Phillips paints for inspiration.
His art is featured, among other places, at the Division Gallery in Toronto and the Louis B. James Gallery in New York. Visit his to view work of the past and present, and follow him on Instagram @brad___phillips to keep up with any future disorientating beauty he has to offer.
Text by PATRICK LABA