Philip Swan
Forest Hills, New York

Philip Swan’s geometric compositions have a minimalist style, which contradicts the process in which they are created, and the way that Philip conceives of the work. He sometimes spends a month on an individual painting, building up layers of underpainting before he adds the black and white shapes on top of the painted lines. Modern geometric paintings typically have smooth, immaculate surfaces. Philips’s work reveals the history of the painting through the textured lines of the previous layers. This makes the paintings more intimate, leaving the mark of the artist as he pushed his way to the final composition. Additionally, the paintings have an architectural quality, and the black and white shapes create negative and positive spaces that allow the eye to adjust and see the piece in multiple ways. Philip explains that a painting is done when he has “striped it down to its essentials.”

Artist and Customer Comments

2016 I

Oil painting on stretched canvas
Signed on back

20" h x 16" w x 1" d
2 lbs. 5 oz.


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Artwork Details

Comments About This Piece

This work is very architectural in approach. My paintings feature hard-edged geometric shapes that utilize asymmetrical compositions and sharp angles suggestive of architecture. I never sketch out a work ahead of time; instead I work directly on the canvas, sometimes spending months on an individual painting. After superimposing an orderly pattern of lines over a loosely brushed initial composition, I then overlay this pattern with black and white fields that can be interpreted as form and negative space in multiple ways. When I arrive at a place that seems distinct from conscious planning, I feel the work can then exist on its own terms with no further intervention on my part. In the spirit of a palimpsest, I want this process of incremental and purposeful modification over time to be palpable to the viewer: I am both masking the work that came earlier in the creation of the painting and allowing the earlier work to remain visible to illustrate this process of attentive engagement, with each adjustment generating subtle changes that spur further painterly considerations. 

This piece is on a gallery wrapped canvas with finished edges. It comes ready to hang. 

Oil painting

Oil paint uses natural oils, such as linseed, poppy and walnut oil to bind the pigments. Oils are slow to dry, which allows the artist to rework the painting to achieve the desired effect. Also, they blend easily, which helps to achieve certain colors. With the rise of naturalism in 15th century Early Netherlandish painting, oil paints became preferred to quick drying tempera paint. Artists wanted a medium that would allow them to achieve detailed and precise effects in their paintings. Consider all of the detail in the masterpieces of Jan van Eyck and Hieronymus Bosch!

Stretched canvas

Canvas is a heavy-duty fabric used as a painting surface. When a canvas artwork is labeled stretched, it means the canvas has been wrapped around a wooden frame (the ''stretcher''). Stretched canvases typically do not require framing.


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