‘Little Reliquary no. 2’, 2018, oil and beeswax on linen, three panels, 62 x 126 cm
Music has always been at the centre of my daily studio ritual. Since early days my urge to get to the studio was driven as much by the prospect of listening to a particular piece of music as the desire to paint. Over the years my understanding of music has deepened, and my interests have changed, but a constant interest is in music written for melancholy occasions. There is something powerful about the emotion in Passion Music, whether you are a believer or not, and music written for funerals, that puts me in the mood to paint.
A particular quality of the experience of music is that it can only be comprehended over the time it takes for it to be performed, whereas painting is experienced in its entirety all at once. The major painting in this exhibition Elegy in Five Parts strives to emulate this quality of music as it unfolds over time. Slight shifts in tonality, colour and horizon are allusions to the separate ‘movements’ in musical composition.
Time has always been a core concern of my art making. Whether it is the short-term time of day; the passage of light from dawn to dusk, or repeated observations of places across seasons or over years, as in the cycle of ‘Relics’ shown here. Perhaps it seems ironic that I strive for a timelessness in my mode of execution; it appeals to me that it is difficult to locate the time of execution of these paintings. I feel I am mining a rich vein, a potent language for exploring the ideas and experiences that are current for me. I have sought to convey the visceral response to grief, whether that is for the loss of someone very dear, or for the accumulating losses of the Natural world.
Philip Wolfhagen, September 2018