Artist of the Month 2017

February: Phil Illingworth

Image: Phil Illingworth, Schism, 2016 (detail). Acrylic paint, lime wood, hand sewn canvas, linen thread, wadding, laminated plywood, varnish.

Our Artist of the Month feature aims to promote artists' work and raise issues in a quick, informal way. February's Artist of the Month is Phil Illingworth.


Hello Phil, what do you do?

My work encompasses many different strands, so there’s probably not a simple answer. For the past few years I have focussed primarily on ideas surrounding the language of painting - broadly speaking, painting in the expanded field - and matters of perception, with a particular emphasis on looking at conditioned response. I don’t confine myself to any one thing though, so I’d say my practice is fairly wide ranging.


Where are you based?

I have been going backwards and forwards between here and France for a couple of years, now I’m back in Southsea, Hampshire.


What’s the best thing about your work space?

Probably the best and worst thing is the fact that it isn’t fixed! Due to the range of processes involved in my practice I find myself working all over the place - sometimes outside if I’m making a lot of mess, sometimes in the dry and the warm. During the summer I shared a field with a flock of sheep. A lot of what I do is resolved in my head so I count the beach or a seat on the train to Waterloo as a workspace too. In that sense my work space is always with me. My ideal would be a large, well-lit unit with a huge white studio, dedicated self-contained workshops and possibly even specialists on tap… sheep optional.


What does ‘success’ mean to you?

Probably getting a good response to my work. I don’t make my artwork in order to seek approval or expect my artwork to be ‘liked’ - that’s the last thing on my mind when I make it. But if others engage with what I’m trying to do maybe it’s a sort of vindication for it all.


Do you earn a living from making art?

That’s what I’m aiming for, but in short, no. Some years I earn more than in others, but along with most artists I do other things to support my practice.


What makes a good artwork?

For me, that’s demonstrated when someone comes to me a long time after they first saw an artwork and they tell me they couldn’t get it out of their mind. In a way it doesn’t matter why, it’s the fact that it stayed with them that means something.


What have you been up to recently?

I have had a fairly busy year one way and another. I have been in a number of group exhibitions including the Contemporary British Painting Summer exhibition at Quay Arts, and ‘We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have’ with Alice Anderson and Evy Jokhova at Rye Creative Centre, curated by Paula MacArthur. This coincided with Manchester Contemporary, followed by ‘Apocalypso’, a solo exhibition at Platform A gallery in Middlesbrough. At the moment I’m in ‘Merge Visible’ at the Crypt in Marylebone, curated by Charley Peters.


What have you got coming up?

There are several things in the pipeline but since details aren’t yet finalised it’s a little early to say. At the moment I’m concentrating on making artwork. Amongst other things I am excited to be resuming work on an installation involving a number of small sculptures.



Phil Illingworth has exhibited in the UK, the USA, and at the 53rd Venice Biennale. His works have been selected for the John Moores Painting Prize, the Marmite Prize IV, and the Jerwood Drawing Prize.

Twitter @philillingworth



What's On

Craft Workshops

Various Venues

Friday 08 February 2019 – Tuesday 31 December 2019

Linda Brothwell Conversations in Making

Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Amesbury, Wiltshire SP4 7DE

Friday 24 May 2019 – Sunday 24 November 2019

Exeter's Fine Art Collection: A Sense of Place

Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Queen Street, Exeter, Devon, EX4 3RX

Tuesday 18 June 2019 – Sunday 15 March 2020

Visual Arts South West

Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.

Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network

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