Vanitas Print Series by John Phillips
In these prints, John Phillips combines photographic and digital techniques with the manipulation of light. 'Vanitas' is the culmination of experimental work shown in his 2014 'Captive Light' exhibition. Each of the Vanitas images is a technical tour de force, in which the artist combines up to 1400 image components to imbue his subjects with an eerie hyper-reality.
At first glance, Vanitas looks back to the mid 19th century - the world of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, the paintings of Henri Fantin-Latour and William Dyce, Swinburne's Garden of Proserpine. Perhaps we go back even further to Holland in the 17th century. Yet the Vanitas prints emerged from contemporary technical experiments.
Phillips’s Vanitas XVII sold out at the 2016 Royal Academy Summer exhibition. It was one of the best selling prints in the show, and aroused considerable interest. There are over 20 prints in the exhibition, some large scale, some small, all reflecting Phillips' current subject of discarded flowers.
John Phillips says 'With the increasing proliferation of photographic imagery and the recording of all aspects of our lives, there is a need to reclaim photography as a route to creating startling images. The Vanitas prints seek to reclaim the discarded and overlooked, and reference a tradition of Western genre painting. Still life and its metaphorical meaning nature morte is the theme of Vanitas, redolent with fading beauty and mortality.