At first glance, you might think the portfolio of Cape Town-based artist Philip Barlow is filled with stylized night photography. However, a closer look reveals that his work is actually rendered in oil paint. The artist’s incredible series, simply titled Night, comprises a collection of “out-of-focus” city scenes overlaid with flourishes of colorful, confetti-like blurs of neon light.
In photography, this effect is called bokeh. It occurs when part of the scene lies outside the depth of field and the camera lens captures out-of-focus points of light. The resulting backdrops of swirling light trails and colorful shapes result in dreamy, eye-catching images that help draw attention to the main subject. In the case of Barlow’s works, the artist paints night scenes featuring blurry city buildings, hazy cars, and bleary pedestrians as abstract silhouettes. However, in place of a conventional object as the main subject, Barlow celebrates “light” instead. He explains, “The figures in the landscape serve as carriers and reflectors of the light that falls upon them. Bathed in the luminosity, it is my hope that they would become more beautiful. To me, light is the ultimate subject because it embodies the pinnacle of all reality.”
“Although I work within a long tradition of landscape painting,” says Philip, “my depiction of the ‘seen’ landscape is simply a vehicle through which I navigate the territory of another nature. A landscape less ordinary; where the line between the physical and the spiritual realm has seemingly been removed. However, these scenarios are not intended to be of a surreal nature. Hopefully, they will seem curiously familiar and convincingly real.”
Discover more of Barlow’s abstract paintings on his website.