Now Featuring R. M. Phoenix

R. M. Phoenix explores that act of making across a variety of media, from photos to zines to paintings.  Labor intensive drawings mix with serendipitous-feeling photos, all making a case for the importance of accidental details, and our attention to them.

Exclusive Print 1

Exclusive Print 2

Exclusive Print 3

Exclusive Print 4

Exclusive Print 5

Exclusive Print 6

MH: Your work covers a broad range, from paintings to books to photographs and publishing projects, and the imagery varies too. Do you have a line of continuity in your work, formally or conceptually, that grounds you?

RP: I sometimes wonder if the only thing connecting everything I do is the fact that I make it, and I suppose that’s true, that making is the underlying factor in everything I do.  Making is how I feel I best interact with the world, as though these things I make are a middle point between me and everything else.  I’ve recently become more interested in the significance of labor and the products of labor in one’s life, the importance of interacting bodily with materials, working them with one’s hands, and how the results of this can create a quiet acceptance and understanding of one’s place within the world.  For me, working is a continual process of exploration, and sometimes I chance upon something that can sustain me and my work for a long time, and sometimes I will make one painting that I love, but that doesn’t suggest any forward movement and so it gets left, still a significant part of what I do and relevant to other work but somewhat at odds to everything else.  And time is a major factor in this, too; I simply don’t have enough time and have to get all my ideas out of my head so as not to forget them.   I’d like more time to explore some things more deeply, though I really don’t want to confine myself to a tight visual identity that I can’t break out of without causing upset.

White Diamonds #405, acrylic & wood, 31cm x 33cm, 2011

MH: Who are some of your influences?  I could imagine a range from Stan Brackhage to Agnes Martin to contemporary street photography. How about contemporary favorites of yours, or peers who influence you?

RP: Agnes Martin definitely, though perhaps her ideas and her life story more than her paintings.  I’ve been really excited by the work of R.H. Quaytman in recent months, and Fergus Feehily’s exhibition at Stuart Shave/Modern Art last month really blew me away.  I love Hedi Slimane’s photography, and my old friend Andreas Laszlo Konrath is putting some amazing work out there currently.  My brother Rich plays in a couple of bands, Sauna YouthTense Men and the ideas he writes about are continually fascinating and intelligent and his drawings are incredible.  David ThorpeSimon CalleryBerlinde De BruyckereWade GuytonTauba AuerbachBianca BrunnerRowena HughesTomas DownesJames WrightSergej Jensen are a few artists whose work & ideas I find really interesting & exciting.  I’ve recently also been heavily influenced by people making furniture, such as Donald JuddRoy McMakinMartino GamperRolu, and I read a lot of blogs, special favorites being and I do enjoy Apartamento magazine.

Sauna Youth 'Lists' 7", with drawings by Rich Phoenix & R.M. Phoenix

MH: You mention the importance of labor in your artist statement.  Can you talk more about it? Your work is very meticulous, but often also quite spare, so labor seems both controlled and also slightly invisible.

RP: I think sometimes the act of labor in my paintings can be quite restrained and quiet, and the paintings don’t always translate well in photographs.  And I think the work is only meticulous to a point.  I’m not big on finicky details, my drawings are perhaps the most detailed work I do, and those are more about the variances of repetition and the act of drawing a line and another one, etc., not mindlessly, but labor as just doing something, when confronted by nothing, until something happens or starts to make some kind of sense.  I’m much more about just getting something done than getting it done to the highest level of craftsmanship.  In my paintings there are visible saw marks, corners aren’t square, edges are uneven, the paint is slightly chipped in places.  This interests me more than the slickness of some minimalism.  I guess it comes down to what I identify in the furniture making of Donald Judd.  When he moved to West Texas he didn’t have any furniture and there wasn’t any to be bought and so he got some wood from the lumber yard and made himself and his family some simple furniture.  There’s a self-reliance and a simple creativity in labor that I think is important.

Ink drawing

MH: What’s your relationship to patterns and repetition?

RP: I like the simplicity of patterns and repetition, and their potential for disrupting perception.  I like the experience of visually understanding something almost immediately, and then for this understanding and comfort in knowledge to be undermined with uncertainties and breakdowns in the system.  I think that using something that can be quite basic visually, something that relies on a repeated motif across a single painting or across a whole body of work, highlights the process and production of the work and the slight and subtle differences that can, deliberately and accidentally, exist between the surfaces and materials used, between wood that is sanded or waxed, canvas that is stained, painted or raw, primer that is one layer or five layers thick, sanded or not, shiny or matt.  These things I find infinitely more interesting than making a picture.


MH: Can you tell me about about the way Portable Isolation Unit, your loose group with three other artists, works?  I was interested in the show that involved a look at Dick Proenneke, someone who I’ve found fascinates artists and non-artists alike. Do you guys have anything new planned?

RP: Portable Isolation Unit is almost like a support group. Anna Hughes and I met by chance about six months ago in London and while our work is very different we found we were working from some similar ideas.  We exchanged emails and references and got talking about working together in some way, taking advantage of the fact that she lives and works in Berlin while I’m here in London.  Anna had been talking with her friend Clemence Grieco about a group exhibition and I got in touch with my friend Wesley Goatley.  We wanted the exhibition to dictate itself, to grow out of discussions around our works and ideas, instead of just putting different work together in a room with no thought to the exhibition as a composed and considered proposal itself.  We spent many hours daily emailing each other back and forth, and through this certain themes continued to appear, specifically ideas around solitude and the creative impulse.  Just before this a customer in one of the shops I work in had been in looking for books on self made vernacular housing and mentioned Dick Proenneke to me. I brought him up in our conversations as an example of the proactive choice to engage with solitude and construct a way of living through one’s own actions.  When we came to refine our ideas for an exhibition his story stood out as a reference point that led to many of the other ideas we had discussed.  We’ve now put on two exhibitions, in Berlin in June, and London at the beginning of September, and published a catalogue, all under the title ‘A Happy Life in the Mountains.’ It’s been exhausting, and I’m now ill from all the work that went into the London exhibition, but it’s been incredibly inspiring and instructive, and without a doubt has had a momentous impact on my work and who I am, which I know goes for the others too.  We don’t have anything new planned as yet. There are possibilities for exhibitions in Europe and Canada, but for the moment I think we would like to have a beer together in my garden and reflect on what we’ve done.


MH: What are your upcoming personal projects or zines?

RP: I have a book coming out with Museums Press later this month, called ‘Anchor & Drift’, which I’m really excited about, and a three person show in London in October, with Dmitri GalitzineJames Trimmer. And then I’m taking some time out for the rest of the year and moving to my girlfriends caravan in a remote valley in Wales, I can’t wait, I need some time out from the stress and pressure that is London and dull part-time retail jobs, and then we shall see, next year will look after itself.


1 gerryNo Gravatar { 09.15.11 at 5:33 pm }

I would really like one. I’ve got an excellent white wall left!

2 MichelleNo Gravatar { 09.15.11 at 6:56 pm }

The movement in R.M. Phoenix’s artwork is amazing. I gives me such energy! I hope to be lucky enough to win one of these fantastic prints!!

3 SarahNo Gravatar { 09.16.11 at 3:10 am }

I enjoy the diversity in R.M. Phoenix’s work and the way in which he talks about it without hyper-intellectual art-speak. I would love the reminder as I grapple with my own visual interests in the studio by having a piece of his hanging! (Particularly, Exclusive Print 3… ;) )

4 CaroNo Gravatar { 09.16.11 at 7:48 am }

I’d like to win because it would make me grin my head off as I passed it in my hallway. Fingers crossed and thanks, Caro

5 GregNo Gravatar { 09.18.11 at 12:31 am }

Thinking-man’s art – pieces that you like today but after stewing on them for a few months (peeling away layers of interpretation) they blossom. The pattern/line work is nice but the photographs of people/nature sing.

6 svenNo Gravatar { 09.18.11 at 5:34 pm }

not only do i admire his art, but also his ability to grow a champion beard.

7 throw them from the windows and watch them fly. « { 09.20.11 at 10:27 am }

[...] Planes featured artist this month, you can buy an exclusive print and read an interview with me. HERE & HERE.  Big big thanks to Kelly Lynn Jones & Maggie [...]

8 Kelly JonesNo Gravatar { 09.21.11 at 3:41 pm }

Well we didn’t get tons of responses but thats ok! I chose Greg! I love what he said about the work! You get to choose a print!! We will be doing giveaways every month so keep looking!

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