STILL LIFE


By David Begley

OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS I  have been visiting Philippa Bayliss’s studio, watching clay pots quietly grow into robust ston monuments. She talks excitedly about the architecture of three turquoise pots in single file. Then of Bonnard, Matisse, her beloved Mexico, where she gathered the handmade amulets for these magical paintings.

Outside cars roll by, dogs bark and birds perp, a clay duck in the garden begins to pout and just then, two tigers saunter through the kitchen, then climb onto the garden shed in order to gawk at the GAA pitch next door. Difficult to believe, but then we are now in the world of Philippa’s paint.

Outside cars roll by, dogs bark and birds perp, a clay duck in the garden begins to pout and just then, two tigers saunter through the kitchen, then climb onto the garden shed in order to gawk at the GAA pitch next door.

This world of giant pots, plastic cats and singing plants exists in Bunclody, and yet these paintings do not depict a garden in rural Ireland. Nor should the subjects cast in her painted theatres be confused with objects. If canal-found bottles and clay pots can become buildings guarded by tigers, then of course yellow armadillos and wooden saints can worship cats on a block of wood in the work ‘The Peaceable Kingdom’.

Such is the world of paint, where everything is possible so long as it is convincing. Over time I have become accustomed to Philippa’s imagination, but this alone would not carry her works without her craft.

Colour is Philippa’s craft, beyond the taut compositions from the restrained palette of the early bottle and clay arrangements to the sheer exuberance of the prowling tigers, Philippa has the habit of placing colours side by side that might otherwise squabble like jealous siblings. And yet, somehow they work. This has left me scratching my head, often, with the thought ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ it is finding these surprises in her layers of paint that keeps me returning to her works.

Philippa paints what she loves. Carvings from Mexico. The flowers she grows. The birds of her tended garden, real and handmade. Perhaps it is this attachment which mkes her compositions sing. Even her most rhythmic arrangements allow space for the cat and saintly characters. As much as they are works of the imagination they are anchored in observation.

I’ve walked through her paired down bottle monuments and feisty cats and then find myself in the tender shockstop of a wooden Gabriel. Who would have thought such paintings could be?

PhilippaStill Life