Sally A. Edwards gets into creative processes with Phil Frost including nature, tech and outside influence from opinions.
This feature first appeared in the printed edition of BLAG Vol.3 Nø 2 published in 2012
Interview by Sally A. Edwards
Art by Phil Frost
Photography by Pedro Albornoz
Courtesy of Phil Frost and Galeria Javier Lopez and Fer Francés, Madrid
Sarah and I first met artist, Phil Frost one day when we were visiting our friends who worked at Slam City Skates in London’s Covent Garden back in the late 90s. He was standing outside the shop working away on an intricate painting that would adorn the front of the store for almost 20 years. It was painted over when a new store moved in much to the dismay of many of us, but within that time frame Phil has created a huge repertoire of work and it’s only become more cultivated, intricate and expanded.
We’ve proudly featured Phil over the years in BLAG and wanted to share our latest conversation, which reveals how he is motivated by intuition, the luxury of silence; giving us a glimpse into the mind of an unrivalled, constant artist. You can also view the gallery of a selections of works recently exhibited at Galeria Javier Lopez and Fer Francés, Madrid.
I'm sure this has been discussed with you on numerous occasions, but most people I know who create come alive later in the day and at night. Do you follow that ethos or do you have a routine that you've created which allows you to be satisfactorily productive at specific hours?
“In general I wake up quite early. Often with the sun or even a bit before. However when taken by the creative process I can often be kept up all hours. If so my time of rising may vary. That and the creative process itself seems to be instigated by some sort of inner quickening that resonates at any given moment and when so must be seized. Perhaps in some cases like a wave that arrives and must be riden, or as an instance that’s been properly stalked as like a beast in the wild that’s hunted and when appears must be preyed upon. Ideas; they just appear when they’re ready. In general I abstain from most all sorts of social interaction. It was partly within that context at some point in my youth that I got discouraged that experiences sometimes seemed to revolve around evening outings, openings, nightly get togethers, parties...and I began to question why? And what were my ultimate motives for creating work? Surely not anything pertaining to social interaction beyond the work itself finding itself read and interacted with. Life’s pace can be ever so fleeting in it’s layers of moments and experience and how they can gesturally relate to time and can be marked in the present where they intersect. There’s something quite synchronistic about it and I suppose the best I can do is be ready anytime anywhere.”
You're self taught and have been exhibiting since 1994. Are there any particular landmark points along that way where you a) found a rhythm where you honed styles / techniques and b) really pushed yourself to evolve more / perhaps unexpectedly found something that created an evolution with your work?
“I find that work is a building on top of itself. A linear result of combined efforts and experiences. There obviously are breakthroughs; experiences that lead to a heightened articulation of some sort of clarity that’s being sought after. I’m not exactly sure how to tangibly distinguish any such experience as being landmarked.
“I can relate that at one point I found myself so interested by different languages. I was 18 and living in NYC and would find myself just letting go on the train or wherever and with my eyes closed listen to all of the sounds of people speaking various dialect as they intersect and layer over each other. With pen and pad I began attempting to chart these phonetics. At a near stage in my work I began to try myself to create poetic fusions of lingual passage. With calligraphic gesture I would chart these constructs of sound. Which then led to an actual sort of tonguing; in a sense it became more like the charting of an inner primal chanting. I would then at this stage perceptively knock out, with bold white, various negative spaces within the calligraphic constructs which would create linear shapes that would weave thru the levels of the typographic, the color & the collaged materials of the ground and the figurative busts of the picture plane. Then one day it began to seem redundant or formulated to no end and another technique emerged where the information began to become a counting pulsing rhythm of white sinuous glyphic math.”
I find it inspiring to listen to music when I'm working but also play classic films with the dialogues and scores running sometimes instead. I talked to ?uestlove about it sometime ago, because I don't like to look at the "competition" or allow outside influence to make suggestions.
The music and films can help me get over bumps or creative blocks or even inspire me to feel more confident. Do you have any alternative ways to reset yourself or get new ideas if needed?
“At a certain point I’m not exactly sure when, but over a period of time music itself began to seem distracting to me. I prefer the sound of silence. In the context of working especially, but overall. I’ve never been a fan of television or cinema. When I find myself in a rut of sorts; like things aren’t popping within and I’m not deeply focused on the creative at hand; I usually just distance myself from what I’m doing and zone out. Stare at a wall or the floor sometimes for hours on end. If that feels confining, I like outdoors in nature; getting lost in the woods, going out digging for fossils, or taking a walk to look for odd bits that jump out at me to form into compositions or make work with. Sometimes just setting work down and having a rip on the cruiser bmx cycle clears the mind. When I was young I would dip and spend the day in either the Cloisters or the Met.”
Life has got remarkably connected and disconnected via technology and I think Art is becoming more important than ever for its human touch and authenticity... Even its currency. How has technology affected life for you?
“I believe I mostly despise it. Hardly ever do I use a computer for anything tangibly useful. Pardon me, actually I do like how easy it is to research things of natural wellness or find homeopathic answers to dealing with myself. That or I can compare prices on books quite easily and rarely overspend on something I’m searching for when I’ve found it. I appreciate how I can quickly keep in touch with someone I’m working with or at it deep building on something with. Though socially, perhaps especially since I’ve purposefully distanced myself from society as best I could by nestling myself in a rural natural setting, I find it’s really isolating, and confining. Like we increasingly are in our own little pods and know one another and communicate largely thru texts and blips on hand held plastic, metal, glass electro magnetic transistor communication devices. And then as far away as you may go you’re never really out of touch, and someone can always trace what you’ve looked at or your last steps or finger swipes on its platform. I think it creates a false world where superficiality takes a certain precedence.”
You've exhibited all over the world, where - no matter how different - would you love to go and create a show from and why?
“I’m not particularly sure how to answer that. I mean culture and places I’ve never been certainly interest me to a degree. Though the more I find roots to spread where I am, the more satisfied I feel right here. I’ve begun to feel that there is no inspiration but that which is inside of me. Surely I take that inspiration wherever I go and make sense of what’s around me with it wherever I am, but it as inspiration itself is as an essence that is more comfortable plotting work and creating the destination as the work itself that’s being created.”