"Texture and patina are important elements in my work. But more essentially the laying bare of the past - looking for something like an unreachable truth - uncovering hidden layers of paint, is what drives me as an artist."

 

My paintings are pieces of decay inspired by the inner city industrial fringes where my studio is located. Downtown Johannesburg is an area that has tentatively been recovered from deterioration. Some of its surroundings are still rusted, stained, faded or disjointed… forming interesting patterns with rich textures, colours and tones in which any attentive observer can find beauty.

A panel of veined wood’s paint pealing off, exposing ancient layers of colours - or the raw weathered wood itself - carries beauty and nostalgia. Old cement floors waxed patiently and unremittingly over the years, rusting industrial equipment abandoned in a forlorn wasteland or walls of old buildings stained and patched with layers of paper board teared off and hanging in the wind, are a source of constant inspiration and instill in me a sense of abandonment and melancholy.

I look for an aesthetic in decay and try to capture it on canvas and on wood panels that I use as support to my work.

 

I reproduce the effects of time using all sort of tools such as knives and spatulas, but also chemicals and waxes, sandpaper and glue. It is a gruelling and a very physical exercise, constantly scratching, rubbing and sanding off layers of paint.

It is a long process as the work consist of multi-layered artist oil paints - produced in my studio with pigments sourced in Burgundy - each layer needing to dry and be “worked out” before the next one can be applied.

My work is abstract in essence, each piece being an object in itself. I work under the urge of bringing together interacting elements - a kind of vital incubation - producing eventually an epiphany of forms, textures and colours.

 

It requires patience and the “right” configuration of all the elements involved. The process starts with a first layer of deep black colour. Black is the absence of light and evokes the “Nothingness”, so dear to Martin Heidegger. But black is also one of the first colours used by man in the neolithic so, although “Nothing” is on the canvas at this stage of the process, it carries already the potentiality of Everything.

The Black canvas stays then a few days on its own in a corner, maturing. It is the most powerful object in my studio, something like a black hole that swallows everything. It is magnificent and - as Pierre Soulages did for decades - I am very tempted to explore and abandon myself into the “Outrenoir”.

Comes the day of the first layer of colour that will cover the black matter. The process is then unleashed. It is going to be long and chaotic and will only terminate when, looking at the work, I reach an inner Peace.

The finished work stands by itself and “resonates”.

 

It can be “observed” at every scale, something like a fractal. One of my favourite ways to look at the paintings is close to the canvas, exploring the complexity of shapes, textures and colours that play with my emotions and intellect.

The resonance of each completed piece is “fuelled” by the black matter underneath, so powerful that sometimes it devours the layers of colour covering it.

This repeated creative process has existential connotations: Is there anything at all under the coloured layers of life that inevitably fade away with time?

 

Philippe UZAC

Fox Series

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LAUB Series

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Egoli Series

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Exhibitions

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