Studio Visit: Paul Philp
During our visit to Paul Philp’s airy studio in his mews house located in Bath, UK, we witnessed the close attachment between the artist and his craft. We also spoke to Paul Philp about his future plans and production process.
Artist Paul Philp and Maud & Mabel Gallery Director Karen Whitely in conversation.
The studio, integrated into Paul Philp’s living space, echoes the artist’s persistence towards making ceramics — a practice interwoven into his lifestyle. Philp’s magnificent pieces sit comfortably in his understated and amiable studio space. Interestingly, the imposing presence of his pieces seem to lighten up in the studio, contained between the white, textured brick walls and tall ceiling. Like Philp himself and the work he painstakingly creates, the space is unburdened by convoluted trinkets, emitting a calm and personable charm backed by quiet resilience and a hint of playful spirit.
Paul Philp hand builds each of his vessels, imprinting his physical presence onto the works piece by piece. The seemingly rudimentary process allows the vessel to organically take shape according to the intricate instincts of the artist as he moulds the clay. The time consuming processes of coiling, carving, and sculpting formulate a close relationship between clay and artist; and the casual ease and affection with which Philp handles his materials demonstrates a comfort that can only come from prolonged and close interaction. It was as if his mixtures of creamy buff Devon ball clay, Staffordshire fire clay (used for bricks), and earthenware clay were old friends he had known for years. Yet, there is no sense of repetitive blandness in the unique sculpted shapes and pinched sharp edges of the vessels. The dramatic forms and unwavering lines of the vessels speaks to a mastery of technique and confidence in artistic vision. These strong design elements reflect influence from the modern Art Deco movement, creating an unexpected appeal when combined with rustic elements in Philp’s works.
Paul Philp’s ceramics connect with its viewers through its tactile surfaces, inviting touch and close observation. A contained energy seeps through the cracks of their textured surfaces. The uneven consistency is achieved through repeated high temperature firings. The pieces are first bisque fired, then layers of ceramic slips combined with combustible organic materials, such as sand, wood ash, cement board, and firebrick, are fired on. Many of the works are finished at white heat. The varying compositions of materials react in different ways with the high temperature and the inconsistencies generate the crackles on the surface of the vessels. Each piece, amalgamating various materials, retains an element of surprise in the creation process — even for Philp who demonstrates close affinity and familiarity with the clays. This unpredictability is risky and sometimes the wares may crack during the firing process. Philp’s tireless experimentation testifies to his commitment and vigour invested into the creative process. The artist’s experienced craftsmanship and consistent stimulated efforts translates into an energetic spirit embedded in the controlled crazing and fissures of the vessels.
The archaic effect of texturous surfaces are a result of Philp’s mastery of the firing technique and familiarity with the material, but also of heavy physical labour. During our visit, Philp admits that it is increasingly difficult for him to work with larger vessels and the large sculptural vases are his last works in this scale. We are honoured and fortunate to present a special collection of seven new extraordinary works at Maud & Mabel, including three highly collectible large vases and some smaller pieces embodying Paul Philp’s dexterous hand and unfaltering creative spirit.
Paul Philp’s works appear simple but carry an unmissable individuality and pronounced presence; they encompass an understated resolution and sense of serenity. The intimate careful construction of each piece balances the seriousness and momentousness of Philp’s interest in ancient culture, oriental art, geology, and the natural world, with a touch of playful experimentation.
View Paul Philp's full collection online
or visit us in the gallery at 10 Perrins Court, NW3 1QS