About Philip Moss

One day in about 1984, I was painting in my studio in The College of Art in Dublin, when my tutor, Carey Clarke, showed me a book on an artist whose work I had never seen before. My tutor had seen something in my work and he thought I might be excited by this artist's paintings. The artist was Lucien Freud and to this day I think that he has had more influence on me than any other painter.

After NCAD I got a scholarship to Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem. It was here that I met and befriended another artist, Anthony Auerbach. He had a car which I hadn't and I had a frying pan, subsequently the two of us became good friends.

After two years of travelling I returned to London and rekindled my friendship with Anthony. He soon informed me that he was going to give up his present job and wondered if I might be interested in replacing him. When he described his work it did not take me any time to accept, it was working for James Kirkman, Lucien Freud's agent. This was to become my dream job and a remarkable coincidence, after all what are the chances of working for your hero? It had literally fallen out of the sky and onto my lap.

I learnt more about painting in two years working for James Kirkman than I did during my whole time at Art College and that was because I was able to get so close to Freud's art.

What has always fascinated me about painting is the paint itself. If I see a beautiful work of art by an artist like, for example, Velazquez, I feel pulled towards it like steel to a magnet. I want to know how he has tricked us into believing that this is a real hand with such a minimal amount of brush strokes. Actually Velazquez is an artist that all painters should study but not for too long as his genius can frustrate you and make you feel insignificant and useless.

My work is often described as realist, which of course it is, but strangely this always surprises me. I tend to think of my paintings as many different abstract areas all joined together. I just paint what's infront of me. Realist art does not interest me per se.

I love to see the way really good painters apply art to canvas and see how the paint sits. I do not mind if it is thin like Morandi or thick like Auerbach. The one common feature is that there will always be good underpainting. Sean Scully is a great exponent of this.

In most great paintings there is evidence of a struggle going on. Good art is hard won. The artist Luc Tuymens fascinates me because he is an exception to rule. I love his imagery. His paintings are somewhat frightening and wistful like leaves under a tree that might blow away at any second. However, he has spawned a School of Painters who produce rather drab, flaccid and fashionable works.

The way I work is very contrived and not too open to chance. I tend to be a plodder, which has its limitations but I am what I am. My paintings take two to four months on average to complete. By the time I have finished I cannot wait to get started on the next idea that has dropped into my brain. My paintings tend to start with the title, so a phrase or a line from a song comes into my head and that's the nucleus.

All my work has a political edge to it. Two years ago I said to myself that I was going to give up doing any more political work. Instead I was just going to concentrate on doing nice paintings of flowers. However, I soon thought - who am I doing these for and there should be meaning and a purpose. So the paintings of flowers became tributes or mementos for people who had been murdered or gone missing. There are too many injustices in the world and it would be so easy to ignore them. Somewhat naively I still believe that art can prick people's consciences. After the Omagh bomb - a day that changed Irish History for ever and a day on which we had planned to go to Omagh to buy school shoes for our children, I did a painting about the event. I know I will probably never sell the painting and it took me a long time to finish, but somewhere within me I just had to do it. One girl who saw it told me it was repulsive and I should never have done it. I asked her if Bono should have written 'Sunday Bloody Sunday.'

I really find it very hard indeed to write specifically about my paintings and would rather at this stage make a list of the artists whose work I love, so here goes:
Velazquez, Goya, Manet, Magritte, Duchamp, Beuys, Guston, Bacon, Freud, Tuymans, Bourgoise, Dumas, Blackshaw, Brady.

The reason I paint can be traced back to my early childhood. By the age of seven I still had not learned to read and write because of a long period spent in hospital. However, some kind person had told me that I was very good at drawing. This comment ignited a flame that has continued to burn within me. I still trust paint more than the written word as a form of communication. It is more deliberate and because it is a slower process far more honest, even though I sometimes feel like I am knitting with paint.

My objective when creating a painting is to create an image that is both interesting and mysterious, if it has elements of danger or humour it is even better. Over the past two years I have been obsessed with Arnold Bocklin's "The Isle of the Dead", an excellent artistically perfect picture in my opinion. This is often the catalyst for some of my own work. I am also very happy to reference art history. Due to my background I have always felt somewhat of an outsider, this is compounded by living in Donegal. I do not like to belong to any particular "ism" or ideology but am happy to borrow from all.

My studio can either be a battlefield or a refuge depending on the circumstances. When things go well I feel immensely privileged, it's like skiing faultlessly down an empty mountain. Each day I start, I say to myself: "Today I must try and paint better than Peter Doig." I guess I am quite competitive and an optimist too.