Collection

Interior Triptych
Philip Clairmont

1970

Philip Clairmont
b.
1949
Title:
Interior Triptych
Production date:
1970
Accession No:
74/11
Measurements:
Left panel: 1160 x 815mm Centre panel: 1160 x 1830mm Right panel: 1160 x 760mm
Media:
Oil on hessian on board

Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth

Philip Clairmont completed Interior triptych during his final year at Canterbury University’s School of Fine Arts in Christchurch. Although based on a drawing of the living room at his student flat in Christchurch, it is largely improvised, being less grounded in the ‘real world’ than many of his other paintings. This domestic imagery goes beyond the merely suburban, and is placed within surging rhythms and splintering angular forms. Interior triptych is hallucinatory and paranoid in feeling, and is possibly informed by Clairmont’s recreational experiments with drugs. Within its swirling, distorted shapes and pulsating colours, we can detect flapping curtains and coats, self portraits grimacing through windows, heads being tormented by birdlike demons. In Clairmont’s hands, normally inanimate objects are anthropomorphised into disrupted, threatening and malevolent forces. Influences in this work seem to vary from the nightmarish content of the early Netherlandish allegorical painter, Hieronymous Bosch, to the psychedelic imagery of American underground comics of the 1960s. Like Bosch, Clairmont used the triptych format of religious altarpieces to express his anguished fantasies and to give this composition — with its long, horizontal format — a compelling sense of rhythmical direction. In many of his triptychs, Clairmont explored biblical themes such as the crucifixion, themes shared with other 20th century artists such as Francis Bacon and Max Beckmann with whom he had close affinity.