South Africa-based artist Philip Barlow uses his paintings to showcase a unique view of the world. By translating figures and places into simplified shapes, he explores the relationship between color and form, as well as between people and their environment. The striking results of this approach have been compared to the bokeh effect in photography—a phenomenon in which subjects are condensed into blurs of light—and even to how people with impaired vision view the world.
In his series of figurative paintings, Barlow captures fleeting street scenes in his distinct style. Groups of pedestrians are distorted into smooth circular brushstrokes, which in turn also merge their bodies with the objects and activity in the background, like streetlights, signs, and other pedestrians walking. Not only are the identities of the silhouettes impossible to make out, but their location is kept just as anonymous. In spite of these questions, the familiarity of the subject—people walking in an urban space—is enough to inform the viewers about what they are looking at.
However, the way you look at one of Barlow's paintings can also affect what you see. Similar to some Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, the distance at which you take in the composition will influence the level of abstraction. So, while from afar it may be easier to visualize, the closer you are to the artwork, the more obscure it becomes.
Scroll down to see more oil paintings by Barlow, and then follow the artist on Instagram to keep up to date with his latest creations and exhibitions.