Philippa Blair

Philippa Blair: Down Under Cover

Welcome to the electric world of Philippa Blair. Fluent in translating the tumultuous world around her, Blair has been stretching the conventional limits of painting for 50 years, both in Aotearoa and abroad.

New York-based art critic Lilly Wei has observed: “Her gestures crash against each other like a multi-car pile up but in fact are controlled impulses, rhythmically taut, expertly choreographed body movements embodied in stroke and color, a bravura orchestration that is both physical and emotional.”

As Blair tunes into the world around her, she feels the energy and rhythm of both city streets and nature alike. In this way, her paintings hum with the familiar rhythms of life, acting as vibrant observations that are boldly autobiographical.

Down under cover displays Blair’s all-embracing, ever-contemporary approach to painting, and acknowledges her relocation to Aotearoa after many years working abroad, where she built her reputation as an internationally renowned artist. Since her return, Blair has been quietly working ‘down under cover’ out West in her Henderson studio, continuing to chart new territories in paint.

As poet Jorge Luis Borges once said: “Reality is not always probable, or likely.” In this exhibition, you won’t find a chronological hang or a linear exhibition essay. While Blair’s two most recent periods are explored—Los Angeles (1995-2014) and Auckland (2015 to present)—the exhibition is a selection of individual painterly statements, accompanied by short narrative commentaries. Thus, Down under cover is a series of opportunities to pause, as much as it is a feast for the eyeballs after our recent screen-centric lock down.

4 July – 6 September 2020

Text: Chloe Geoghegan
Photo: Sam Hartnett