Phil Ashcroft, Cyclone (GP Version), acrylic on canvas, 175 x 126cm, 2012, photo Joe Plommer
Cyclone (GP Version) (detail), acrylic on canvas, 175 x 126cm, 2012, photo Joe Plommer

An essay by Simon Hollington written for Solar System Parameters, excerpt below:

There are no people in Phil’s images. Just eerie abandoned modernist landscapes and strange light. There is no time reference either – the paintings have a ‘day for night’ quality about them – a technique beloved by early British sci-fi films.

Are the landscapes pre-apocalypse or post? Are the people hiding or gone? (Or is it as one of Phil’s influences Robert Motherwell commented ‘wherever art appears life disappears’?). What are the jagged black shapes coming into or leaving the frame? Whatever they are they don’t look friendly – but in an exaggerated comic book evil kind of way via Franz Kline.

There is a great conspiracy theory that says that the industrial revolution was started by aliens in an attempt to get humanity to terraform the earth by increasing Co2 in the atmosphere, thus making it good for the aliens and bad for us. Maybe the black jagged things are the aliens coming back – humanities self-defeating work having been done? Or is that just my hope that it’s all that simple?

So the end days have always been with us – and always will be, in various guises and theories, some real and some apparently not.

Thus images of doomsday, the day of judgement, Armageddon and the apocalypse will always be part of our culture, as long as that culture mutates and survives towards its own destruction by what ever available means necessary. Something that humanity, its landscape and the depictions thereof are very adept at doing.

Phil Ashcroft – a 21st century John Martin if John Martin was painting Mega-City One after the neutron bomb had been dropped and the aliens are coming?

Or maybe it’s all a painterly critique of architectural modernism? Or maybe it’s a really interesting and quite challenging painterly language combining the mark making of abstract expressionism and the straight clear line of graphic illustration with the strategies of urban art. Or all of the above?

Either way enjoy them while you can, they are the pictures and the monuments that survive us. We are all doomed. Watch the skies.

Simon Hollington is an artist, writer and lecturer.

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