Thursday, April 05, 2007

Phillip Lynam Studio Visit

All four walls of Phillip Lynam’s studio at The Stutz are a flat white, except for a wide bank of windows that apparently let in a lot of light during the day, when he prefers to work. The night of our meeting he had his most recent works on the opposite end of the studio, so as to remove them from the harmful rays of daylight. This arrangement gave the space a lack of balance, emphasizing his paintings hanging on one end of the wall.

Lynam’s studio is not a place for relaxing, but for working; there’s only one chair in there, and the space is arranged just so. Though it's nothing like an operating room, it’s very well organized. Most of his tools and equipment are sorted and lined up on a small table near the center of the room. Next to that table is another table on which he paints. There’s an easel near there, a cart, some shelves, and a storage unit over in the corner for his paintings.

He creates many of his works on the small table, working and re-working fields of acrylic paint over panels and stretched canvas. This process can be additive and reductive; some paintings have many layers of paint, and sometimes whole paintings exist underneath other paintings. He uses a variety of methods and employs mostly common tools to create his works.

Though his working process is controlled it allows for or encourages accidents. “For me, this is essential, because it really is the dialogue at the core of making a painting – sometimes I direct, sometimes I respond to direction from the materials. I work the entire surface of the painting in many layers, building a ‘history’ into the image. I start paintings with a loose plan or series of sketches, color notes – very occasionally a reference image – notes that diagram a possible order of layers but the paintings always end up being somewhat improvisational.”

This process for making non-objective paintings gives them their depth. Transparent color is layered on transparent color and then selectively removed or added again to allow forms and shapes to emerge from the color fields.

Many of his works have a kind of inner light about them that is not necessarily visible in the images on his web site, which is interesting because Lynam mentioned his interest in looking at biomedical images on the computer screen, with their abstract representations of humanity as references for his works. The fact that the true presence of his paintings doesn’t come through the computer screen (as few paintings ever do) adds another layer to his image, or perhaps takes one away. (Image at right: rub 12" x 12", 2006)

“I think about common things that I see daily, like the color and shape of the rust spots that appear on the particular chalk-blue green used to paint highway overpasses, rust on the backs of commercial trucks on the highway, the internal light and transparency of images on monitors....and sometimes I seek out images that are outside of my daily experience because I perceive some relationship to the paintings: DNA marker images (are often very beautiful compositionally), microscopy (amazing color, my interest in the idea of an image as a kind of screen that sits between the viewer and a light source).”

His paintings require work from the viewer. But the most successful ones are doing exactly what Lynam is asking of them: that they become a place in which the viewer can be dislocated and allowed to immerse into the image, and stay there looking. With its two anthropomorphic shapes in the center, guide (2006, 12” x 12”), has an inner yellow-green under-glow that seems to illuminate the shapes which have angular and perpendicular dimensions on their interior. There is a source of light arcing on the left side of the painting, while the right side of the image is darker. (Image at right: guide 12" x 12", 2006)

Seeing eight of his paintings arranged on the wall made me ask early on in our conversation if they were meant to be in a series. Though this seemed to be a natural conclusion – some of the colors and patterns or forms seem to be speaking to other paintings right next to each other. But they don’t have to be seen together, they stand on their own. They are in a series, though, he says, as all of his work is in some way tied together. One is made after another, but they don’t have to be in order necessarily.

None of the paintings in his studio are framed. Some of the most recent paintings are painted on small pieces of hardwood panels and hung on the wall with a shallow cleat which makes them stand proud of the wall, giving them a sculptural aspect. But at the same time, when contrasted against the stark, white walls of the studio, they seem not unlike images projected on a monitor glowing back at the viewer. Unlike static images, they have a sense of movement and liveliness that computer images (or any photograph) never achieve. They appear to be more of living things than frozen moments in time.

For more information and background, visit, or you can visit him at the the Stutz building on Studio Open House, April 27th and 28th. Lynam will also be showing at Dean Johnson Gallery this fall.

1 Responses to “Phillip Lynam Studio Visit”

liriodendron said...
April 6, 2007 at 10:15 PM

Beautiful! Love his colors and the transparency.....a real eye feast. :)

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