A Week of Canadian Painting: Brad Phillips

Because we are a Canadian-run publication and we admire those who continue to work with the arguably dated medium of paint, in the arguably dismal landscape of the Canadian art-world, we have decided to do a week-long feature on some of our favorite current Canadian painters, in no particular order. Stay tuned this week to see who we believe to be among the greatest established and emerging painters the Great White North has to offer!


[Brad Philips is not really a bad boy artist, if it seems like it at first.] He paints clever photo-realistic paintings with humorous, cynical aspects and while his work is typically pessimistic, there is always some little bit of romance or nostalgia or sentimentality present to make it sensitive and beautiful. Even though I know Brad is really articulate, when he paints it seems like he is trying to express a complex feeling but can’t completely find the words, and so instead just shows you an ordinary object, and this unusual way of communicating a feeling makes the feeling seem more profound and meaningful. Maybe that is the painterly way of communicating a feeling? I’m not sure… I’m not a painter, or any kind of expert on the subject. Anyway, Brad expresses something big in a subtle, funny way and you know that, through his work, he is laughing into the void with the best of the rest.  – Olivia Whittick

Where did you grow up? What was the landscape like?
I grew up in Scarborough until I was twelve . I was one of few white kids. I’m 42 soon so I remember the beginning of hip hop and we all just used to break dance on cardboard at the mall. it was a bleak landscape, all grey high rises . little greenspace. it’s a dangerous neighbourhood now but I always felt safe. then I moved to Pickering which was really white and everyone but me was into skateboarding. I went from being popular to being a total loner. bleak there too but differently. cookie cutter tract housing. but I discovered hardcore music there later on, we listened to fugazi not nirvana. I mostly was a real recluse there and just read a lot. I left for Toronto as soon as I could .

Do you think being Canadian has had any impact on your work?
The only way being Canadian has effected my work really is that I’ve seen how limited it is here so since I started focused on showing in the US and Europe

What is your favorite medium to work with?
My favourite medium is writing, I always wanted to do that most, but I fluked into success with painting. I don’t identify with being called a painter at all. I don’t love painting. I’m glad when they’re finished. painting has always been just a different way to write to me

suicide note


What themes do you work with, if any?
I guess I do work in a theme which is a literary one, fictional autobiography fucking around with ideas of a persona, appearing to be honest and confessional and sometimes I am, but mostly playing off cliches and constructing a fake idea of who I might be so people can project what they like onto my work like I wrote in that one piece, all writing is fiction. including memoirs.

Are you inspired by any Canadian painters?
Not really. I love David Milne but he’s not in my work. maybe I’m inspired by my two best friends jay Isaac and Aaron Carpenter just in that they share an adversarial relationship to the viewer that I also have

Is there any one painter who has influenced your work more than others?
No painters really influenced me. Alex Katz slightly and Fairfield porter. but only in that they use their lives as material. I’m more inspired by writers. but when I think about it I’m not really “inspired” by anyone. there’s just people I appreciate a lot. Anne sexton, Robert Lowell

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doctor shopping 7 x  9 2011


Are you drawn to any particular historical art movement?
My favourite time in art is basically 1890-1914. but it’s not evident in my work

Do you consider your work to be political?
Only if you believe the Germaine greer line that the personal is political, which I’m not sure I do ascribe to. 99% of political art fails as good visual art

What do you think is missing from the Canadian art scene?
ha. a lot. but I wrote an essay about it last year that got me crucified so no comment. I still apply for grants