The Politics of Eternity - be careful what you wish for. by Phil Whiting

Phil Whiting

Phil Whiting
Painting the land is the best way I know of evoking half forgotten memories or truths. I have long been drawn to places of trauma, be it abandoned postindustrial sites or war zones. My feelings about the physical reality of what is left move’s me to paint. I study modern history avidly and believe that my generation can provide that essential bridge of knowledge/experience that lies between WW1 and the uncertainties of today. In a sense I am a history painter. I am also a human rights activist and have been invited to give talks about my work and concerns by many institutions including schools and universities. In April 1995 at the height of the Bosnian War I embarked on a major art project I called ‘Places of Mourning in the Western World’ in an attempt to understand why in the centre of Europe genocidal behaviour was once again happening. This has led me to visit 17 countries from Syria in the east to New York in the west to make artwork on site and to interview both survivors crying out for truth and justice and perpetrators in denial. I painted ‘The Politics of Eternity’ in one day (27th Jan 2005) after a visit to Auschwitz – Birkenau the month before. It has never been exhibited before and was painted on some old canvas I found that could well date back to 1945. I have given it this title after reading Timothy Snyder’s visionary book ‘The Road to Unfreedom’ in which he argues that with the rise of populism, fake news, Brexit and Trump the West is at a crossroads. Either we choose the way of Western Democracy that always provides hope for a better future or we choose the myth of some glorious national past that offers no hope but promises a sense of tribal belonging and identity by blaming the ‘other’ for all that is wrong in our lives. Sadly I have found nothing in all my research and travels that disproves his thesis. My painting I believe is a visual metaphor – a warning.
Born London 1948. Training : DipA.D. Portsmouth College of Art 1969. Major Solo Exhibitions and Residencies include : ‘Srebrenica : Paintings from the Grave’, European Parliament Building, Brussels, 2006 (Moved onto The Royal Cornwall Museum Spring 2008 and to BayArt Gallery Cardiff Autumn 2008), ‘Places of Mourning in the Western World’, New College, Oxford University 2009. Major commissions include : English Heritage 2000, The Fund for Refugees in Slovenia 2005&2012, The Guardian 2006, Amnesty International 2011, Truro Cathedral 2011&2012. Awards include : Arts Council 1981, Red Line Art Works Annual Award Winner 2017 for Art about big Global Issues or Concerns. Professional affiliation : Fellow Royal Society of Arts.

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