a cacophony of multiple urban influences by the dynamic Philippa Blair

New Zealand born Los Angeles based artist Philippa Blair is back home to visit family and share OUT OF LINE her radical abstraction painted in her new studio in San Pedro, the port town of Los Angeles.
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Exhibition Dates: 2 – 19 June 2010
Exhibition Preview: Tuesday 1st June, 5.30 – 7.30 pm
Enquiries: Warwick Henderson, Tel. 09 309 7513
Philippa Blair has an extensive career of over 35 years garnering international success and in
the process becoming renowned in New Zealand as one of our foremost abstract painters. In
her latest exhibition, “Out of Line” at the Warwick Henderson Gallery, Blair makes a welcome
return to New Zealand.
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As an internationally respected action painter, the process of mark-making and the materiality
of paint is also an important component of her work. The artist explores this painting process
with drips, splatters, poured paint and painted lines. Movement is also an important aspect
of Blair’s work, and this is enhanced and reflected in gestures and movements while she
paints. The canvas is often laid on the ground and worked around, similarly to Jackson
Pollock. Like Pollock her work has no fixed view point and the ‘all over’ painting style
means the compositions remain unfixed. This is a deliberate approach by Blair to deny a
singular interpretation of the work; the paintings reflect an amalgam of influences from music,
industrial architecture, urban noise, nature and cinema as well as personal memories and visual
This latest show is a departure from previous work and as Blair states this exhibition is a
‘dramatic and more monochromatic series’. More white over-painting is employed to create
negative space, while black becomes more dominant in some paintings. In other work, the
clever use of colour, another Philippa Blair trademark, appears to be both harmonious and
at times a successful anomaly, a gestural abstract wonderland which plays with the viewer’s
senses in an almost whimsical manner.

Dr. Anne Kirker, who recently viewed the new works in Blair’s studio in San Pedro on the
edge of LA, says there are “…some departures to what is now the practice of an artist in her
prime…For this artist, like many others, creative expression is the summation of a maelstrom
of influences brought about by a change in living situation, which provides a new iconography,
but also memories…travel undertaken, encounters made, and all the sensations involved
in engaging with early 21st century life. The paintings coming out of the San Pedro studio
are hence predictably dynamic and challenging… There is a strong linear pulse to Blair’s
compositions nowadays as though the painted sweeps of squeegee, the fine lattice webs and
the spare spray-gun tracks, work as a dense journey. Whether single or in diptych form, these
canvases take you into a terrain that simultaneously evokes the senses, not only of sight but of
music and sound, of the crackle of electronics, or the brute force of industry piercing the air”.¹
Blair uses maps and grids as a motif in her work, which reflect landscapes and as she
explains: “it is a way to become acquainted with foreign lands”. In her new series these
map-like compositions reference an aerial viewpoint of urban landscapes, from the industrial
port town San Pedro, (the southern part of Los Angeles) “where the 110 freeway meets the
Pacific Ocean”. This is a new gritty working environment for Blair, perhaps tempered with
remembered snowcapped mountainscapes of New Zealand. One thing is certain this cacophony
of multiple urban influences and visual sensations are completely captivating in this emphatic
new series of work.
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(1) Dr Anne Kirker, Auckland, April 2010 – Email to Warwick Henderson Gallery

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  1. May an artstudent #

    Philippa Blair is an awesome painter and I like the tips for artists