PHILIP ASHLEY STUDIO VISIT
Philip Ashley is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work is comprised of sculpture, painting, film and photography. But none of the mediums are necessarily an island, as he often beautifully weaves them together – incorporating his photos and film stills on to hydrocal reliefs. His work channels his physical surroundings as well as the current social climate.
Photographs by Azadeh Shushtari
1. How did this current body of work (images and adornments in/on hydrocal) come about?
I became attracted to the combination of organic materials with photographic and industrial printing techniques through experimentation over the years. I grew up around my dad’s pottery studio and in the craft world in the south so I think just the general feeling of glazing ceramics and sculpting things by hand has sort of translated into my work from my upbringing. I've been working with sculptural relief and printing on textured surfaces for a while now, sort of navigating a path between painting, sculpture and photography.
2. How do you decide on the imagery and adornments that you use on and in the pieces?
I think over the years I've built up a visual catalogue of things I'm attracted to, subject matter and ways of interpreting things. Its more of a general feeling than a specific set of criteria for me. Things that are readily available around the neighborhood, whether it be steel components for security gates or portraits from the general public, these things are especially appealing and have a lot of emotive potential to me as of late.
3. Now you have begun to stretch afghans on the panels, and paint/print over them. How do you see this body of work continuing to evolve?
I've gone through and showed multiple versions of the hydrocal relief pieces over the past couple of years. I feel that I thrive when I work between mediums, so recently I've been experimenting with painting and video in addition to the relief series. Allowing different mediums to inform each other with the imagery continuing a thematic thread tends to lead to progress for me.
4. You’re also experimenting with film. Can you talk a bit about how your film work relates to the paintings?
We watched a video at the studio I had been re-editing that I shot in Haiti a few years back, I was revisiting it and taking imagery from it. I've taken a hiatus from this type of work and focused solely on the 2-D pieces lately so I'm warming back up to the medium. It works as a way of interconnecting things, with time and sound being involved it opens up new perspectives.
5. Your work has social undertones to it. What topics at the moment are influencing your work?
The things that keep me up at night become embedded in my work whether I consciously put them there or not so I've embraced this in a certain way. I think there is just this general sense of malaise for our generation that can kind of be traced back to what has happened socially over the course of our adulthood. The absurdity of a lot of the viewpoints and political stances from the past have just left everyone in a collective stupor. I think this feeling informs my work in a general way. Specifically one glaringly obvious issue in this country besides us being at perpetual war is the criminal justice system and how many facets of it have destroyed a great number of lives here unjustly. Aside from some of the most obvious and reported on problems there is literally thousands of people in solitary confinement right now for things as innocuous as selling a few dime bags. This thought sort of takes the wind out of me. There are a number of problems with addressing things like this completely overtly for me and I think more experiential and open ended work tends to be more appealing and successful rather than a more didactic approach. I have questions and more of a deep curiosity rather than any sort of answers. Although with criminal justice reform it seems fairly straightforward as to what the resolution needs to be.
6. Can you tell us a bit about the print that you recently released with Exhibition A?
The Exhibition A print is called "Ship of Fools". Its a collage piece I made with imagery from a "Just Busted" broadsheet that they sell in my home town of mugshots of every single individual arrested over a week's time. Its a strange publication, and probably illegal in a lot of places to publish something like this. I collect these certain small level publications that document the absurdity of the U.S.’s punitive state and the drug war shamelessly. The print's composition is reminiscent of variations of horror movie poster designs I've seen again and again on different VHS boxes over the years.
7. You’ve had a busy couple of months, a few group shows and showing at NADA with the Pit. What has been the highlight of your year thus far?
I really enjoyed working with The Pit, Adam and Devon have an amazing program out in LA, they have a great eye and are very passionate about what they are doing. Anthem of the Sun at Canada was also a great experience, I love that gallery and the show was put together really beautifully by the talented Pali Kashi.
8. What projects do you have coming up/are you most looking forward to?
This summer I'm finishing up new works and preparing to have some pieces in a show at 99cent Plus in the fall that B. Thom Stevenson is curating. I'm enjoying working in oils again, I've sort of been on a hiatus from painting like this for a long time and its been therapeutic getting back into it, I’m also working on fleshing out a couple of video ideas as well. Just trying to keep moving.