THE ABSTRACT HEART

Dunedin painter Philip James Frost looks over his shoulder while keeping his eye firmly on today — and if that sounds abstract, it’s because it is

PONDERING WHAT prompted him to study Vincent van Gogh at age seven, Philip James Frost concludes: «I just always wanted to paint».

Which isn’t to say that the Dunedin artist didn’t first chase other creative pursuits. However, surfing and music just weren’t satisfying enough, and he realised he was «too messy for architecture».

So it was that Philip entered a self-created world of colourful, geometric shapes and repetitive language. He wanted to depict the crazy, loud pace of city life; the attitudes, hip hop influences, grunge and truthfulness of the streets.

Thanks in part to his left-handed «affliction», Philip creates smudged, crayon-splattered worlds with multiple layers. «I just go for it with colour, throw it all down, leave it, then go back.»

Pistols and bones may hint at darker themes, but these motifs are just Philip’s take on pop culture: «the only thing that’s important is today».

Philip’s most recent collaboration has been with Company of Strangers in Dunedin, customising a range of Converse high-tops for their new collection with an aim to reflect the pulse of Dunedin street life. Owner Sara Munro explains: «His work has that raw look that I like — it works with our imperfect aesthetic.»

Philip says he is «at heart» an abstract artist: «The way I draw will never be mathematical». Yet he has huge respect for the Classical artists and draws Caravaggio’s iconic fruit bowl almost every week. «Most people who do anything with passion look back on those who’ve done it before,» he says.

«I love referencing, I love knowing that I did this body of work in this time — the 90s, the 2000s. It all acts as a diary of my life.»

Philip is currently set to head to Sydney for a residency at Blank Space Gallery, where he exhibits annually. «I want Australia to adopt me like Pavlova!»

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