-Solo! Phil Sims
21 May 2017 – 17 September 2017
Color as Experience. Locating Phil Sims' Work
Phil Sims paints pictures, during a time within which it is well established that painting is no longer a privileged form of representation. It is common knowledge that with the birth of photography in the mid-nineteenth century that painting lost its previous position. Up to this point it was readily comprehensible that what a painting offered was also an image. The advancements of digitalization in current years and the resulting constant accessibility of images has led to a complete disregard for a picture's inception and original contextual meaning. This has led to a new surge of interest with regard to the question of the role of the painted image. What is the purpose of such imagery, when it is possible to view everything anywhere and in a multitude of varieties on a computer, tablet or smartphone? Particularly when painting neither needs to present or interpret reality, nor devise it, abstract, non representational imagery has come to play a distinctive role in the discussion of the image.
The persistent pronouncement of “the end of painting” following the beginnings of modernism, as well as painting's radicalization in the autonomous abstraction of 1913, resulted in artists in the mid-nineteenth century including Frank Stella, Robert Ryman but also Gerhard Richter engaging themselves with issues pertaining to reality within painting. They occupied themselves with the aesthetic difference between the material representation of >a painting< and the aesthetic experience of >a painting>; this difference is visible, without being able to determine what it shows. Concurrently, this development led to the principle of negation, as is visible in the so called last paintings of Ad Reinhardt, which states that paintings, in aesthetic terms, no longer exist, they are instead mere material surfaces.
At the end of the 1970s, against the backdrop of all of this, a dialogue based upon the belief that the purpose of painting could be something other than that of an image, about the very essence of painting emerged between artists, including amongst others Phil Sims. In 1978 Marcia Hafif published her pivotal essay Beginning Again in the American art magazine Artforum, within which she redefines the apparent end of painting as being situated within the time that both pop art and minimal art were at their most popular. Simply put, the renewing of the artistic genres is made possible through the radical reversion to the roots of painting (from which the term Radical Painting is derived. She prompted an investigation of the material conditions of a painting. The central focus was painting as a process, within which its fundamental elements color, medium and paint application are subject to a more or less systematic analysis. Amongst others Joseph Marioni, Günter Umberg or Dieter Villinger can be listed alongside Hafif as belonging to the main protagonists of this generation, all of whom like Phil Sims are well represented in the Ege Art and Culture Foundation's collection.
In comparison to the previously-mentioned representatives of such painting, all of whom personally perform in this conceptual manner, the additional development demonstrated in Sim's work reflects his personal notions of color's meaning and its role in the act of painting. For Hafif color itself has no independent worth and is instead, just like the pictorial medium and format, although encouraging of exploration nothing other than a painting's material form. However, given that Sims continues to repeatedly experiment with different color substances and admixtures, it is clear that it presents for him more than a mere material reality in his painting. Not without reason, Sims continues to emphasize that he doesn't just paint a yellow, red or blue picture and that yellow, red or blue are not simply objects, but also motifs, of his painting: For me it’s all about color.
Even when personal experiences may have influenced his choice of color in the production of individual works, it never has anything to do with recording individual moods or states in an expressive manner, (...) but with wider questions pertaining to the conditionality, organization and effects of color. Sims' paintings appear to consist of a monochrome surface, whereas in actuality their surface is composed of various colors. The composition is a result of a multitude of tones layered on top of each other; this layering is executed in a such a manner that on the one hand the desired hue is achieved but on the other hand the visual structure is created and arises from the color itself. This act is equally visible in all of his paper works, whether that be watercolor or drawing. Here, the application of color and the individual hues work constantly and directly with one another, thus supporting Erich Franz's claim that Sims' paintings have no color, instead they are themselves color.
That the work in no way deals with the reducing down to a single colored surface is important, as such assumptions bring with them the danger of perceiving the works as mere material surfaces; this is also visible not only in his paintings or paper works but also surprisingly in his ceramic objects, his tea bowls and small sculptures. Within these other works it also possible to see Sims' particular interest in the coloring of three-dimensional forms, which allow him a restricted amount of control due to the fact that the relationship between clay and glaze only comes into play during the firing process.
In Sims' entire body of work, the focus is on how color is not simply a property of the presented object but the starting point from which a visual sensory impression can be created, in order to then induce certain sensitivities, memories and imaginings during the viewing process. This demonstrates, that within all of his work a painting can be something other than an image. Instead of offering information to the world, particularly within our contemporary state of image-based oversaturation, paintings, drawings or sculptures offer an experience of viewing and encountering within the world.