Natalie Phillips, Prohibition
The paintings of emerging Oregon artist, Natalie Phillips, immediately call to mind the Mexican muralism of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. At only 23 years old, Phillips possesses an intuitive grasp of color and movement. In Prohibition, she creates a scene that gets at the mood with costumed figures, flailing gestures, and bright colors.
Phillips grew up in the Bay area of California and obtained her BFA at UC Santa Cruz. Within a year of graduating from college, she moved to Portland, OR. In only six months, Phillips has established her name in Portland, with art pieces being shown at the Compound Gallery, Breeze Block Gallery, and The Life Gallery.
Natalie Phillips, The Boss
Phillips creates her paintings on paper and clayboard panels using acrylic paint. She prefers clayboard for the completely smooth surface that lends itself to fine detail. She says she aspires to a higher level of detail in her paintings, but looking at her works, I feel as though the detail is very powerful. For inspiration and influence, she cites Balthus, Lucian Freud, expressionist Egon Schiele, and illustrator James Jean.
Natalie Phillips, Recess
For its “Back to School Show”, The Life Gallery asked Phillips to produce an illustration on lined school paper. I love the hunched figure with the headdress in this work. With her slanted eyes and claw-like fingers, she appears to frighten the schoolboy. But he’s smirking at her as he shields himself with a stuffed rabbit. How the two figures contrast is a sign of the artist’s ability to show us conflicting situations, conflicting emotions.
Another work by Phillips, entitled Sugar Skull, was exhibited at Redux Art Center in Portland for the October Dia de los Muertos Show. The 8”x10” mixed media on clayboard evokes graffiti art with its raw, vibrant intensity. Notice how we can’t see the face of the figure, but just the wide open mouth. The skull on the jutting tongue has the semblance of a tattoo, and the bluish lips and fingers have a splendid surreal quality. The sinuous fingers clutch at a cross necklace as if to tear it off.
Natalie Phillips, Sugar Skull
For a literary themed show at Powell’s Basil Hallward Gallery in Portland (January 7th), Phillips presents a painting inspired by Haruki Murakami’s Wind Up Bird Chronicles. There is a scene in the book where a character is trapped inside a dark well. An intense burst of sunlight comes over the well for a brief moment, and Phillips wanted to capture this moment in a painting.
Natalie Phillips, In the Well
Phillips also leads figure drawing sessions once a week at the Bamboo Grove Salon in Portland. She says she will continue to work on a new collection of paintings for 2010.