Philip Clairmont

This exhibition is now closed

It is tragic that this exhibition is a memorial one. Three years ago Philip Clairmont ended his life tragically in his 34th year.

Many Christchurch people will bring strong personal memories to this very carefully selected exhibition of paintings, prints and drawings by Clairmont during the period 1969-83. This was the time when his fractured and transformed domestic scenes, faces and figures were becoming recognised as his highly individual style. It was also the period when many were declaring him the enfant terrible of New Zealand expressionism.

In his work people saw the influence of the popular music of Hendrix and Dylan. They also said it was a drug induced vision although Clairmont himself said, "You cannot actually work when you're taking the stuff. The thing is that drugs work both for and against creation. Anyway, they only reinforce things that already exist in the artist."

Often they overlooked Clairmont's careful control of the formal elements. He was very aware of the work of Max Beckmann and Ludwig Kirchner and of techniques which increased the ambiguity of the surfaces and colour. He was interested too in referring to self-portraits, frames and mirrors in his images, playing with the dichotomy of self and depiction, me and you, her and him, inner and outer.

We can therefore approach this major exhibition of Philip Clairmont's work, which is organised and toured by the Sarjeant Gallery with the assistance of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council and the NZAGDC, in two ways. As tortured, magical, demonic images or as formal manipulations and visual ambiguities, the images in this exciting exhibition curated by J. and M. Barr challenge the coherence and unity of our world vision.

A special opening will be held on December 10 at 7.30 p.m.

('Philip Clairmont', Bulletin, No.54, November/December 1987, pp.2-3)