Bruce Phillips: Making his mark with line, light, and color

Published 3:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2016


Bruce Phillips’ exhibit “Another Perspective” is now open at the Johnson Center for the Arts. A reception will be held in his honor on Thursday, October 13 at 6 p.m. at the Johnson Center. The public is invited to attend, meet the artist, and view his outstanding exhibit.

In viewing Bruce Phillips’s repurposed art, it’s easy to believe that he is on a never-ending scavenger hunt for items for his art.

“Not so,” said Phillips, although he does admit to having a storehouse of found objects for his artwork. “But not as many objects as I had before I married,” he added laughing.

Phillips “picks up” objects of interest that could be artfully used. However, he doesn’t go looking with a particular object in mind.

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When, he’s working on an art project and needs a glass cylinder or a wooden spindle, Phillips said he’ll remember something that’s he’s picked up. The discarded item will then become a part of art.

Phillips, assistant professor of art, College of Arts and Sciences at Tuskegee University, is a featured artist at the Johnson Center for the Arts.

His exhibition titled “Another Perspective” opened at the Johnson Center for the Arts on September 14 and will come down on Oct. 22. The exhibit includes 53 works – large and small – that are distinctively “marked” E. Bruce Phillips.

From a distance, the tiny marks – hundreds of the curvy, squiggly lines – in Phillips’ artwork are not distinguishable but a closer look reveals the marks that create the mood, the feeling of the artwork and its artist.

His marks mimic a signature … “a messy signature.”

“I love lines, light and color and movement,” Phillips said. “And I love music. I like to listen to music when I work and the music influences the speed of the line and often dictates the colors. The vibrations of the music – fusion jazz to rock — translate into concepts and ideas.”

Duke Ellington and Cole Train get Phillips’ mind going. He caters his art to his music and the “sound” of his art is distinctive. The lines may be light and calm or they may be heavy and bold but they are the marks of Bruce Phillips.

The Birmingham-based artist exhibited talent when he was only in first grade.

He was fascinated by the shapes he could make with simple lines and the implications of colors. Even as a young child, Phillips said, he was passionate about art.

“I discovered drafting in high school and architecture in college,” he said. “I was fortunate to be able to study painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design.”
At SCAD, Phillips said his active mind took exploratory journeys into color and mixed media and led him to the discovery of found objects and to the art of assemblage.

He had an opportunity to study in Europe and to draw every day. He began to feel like an artist.

Phillips’ earlier work was themed in different ways, from music related scenes to social commentaries to found objects and architectural abstract.

His more recent work explores the interconnection between man and the environment.

Phillips uses lines, circles and his marks as symbols of the interconnection between man-made structures and nature.

And found objects have prominent places in Phillips’ repurposed pieces, both very large and small.

“Photography is central to my newer works,” he said. “I use photographs to give perspective to the images and show depth. I carry my cell phone so I have a library of photographs. I use the photographs to create other views and I like to merge one photograph into another.”

The artist uses line, shapes and colors and his distinctive markings in conjunction with the photographs to create scenes that are real to a point and then almost surreal, said Vickie Pritchett, JCA executive director’

“Bruce is an outstanding artist whose work is unique,” she said. “Even though, at first glance, his art might seem to have a simple theme but really it is very complex. You can look at one of his pieces today and come back the next day and the next and see something different. It is amazing.”

The JCA will host a public reception for Phillips at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13.

“The community is invited to come meet Bruce and enjoy this exciting exhibit of his artwork,” she said. “He has fascinating stories to tell of how his found objects become art. You’ll not want to miss this opportunity.”