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Face Masks by Philip Westcott

Artist In Focus - Philip Westcott

About the artist

Over the years I have tried, through my paintings, to record the changes in my hometown of Salford. I drew pencil sketches of the1980’s urban regeneration, where terraced houses were replaced with shopping precincts. Here I found inspiration for my figurative paintings, capturing scenes of people experiencing everyday life. I developed my work to include the emergence of shopping malls like the Trafford Centre and even painted pictures of the aftermath of the Manchester bombing.Over the years I have tried, through my paintings, to record the changes in my hometown of Salford. I drew pencil sketches of the1980’s urban regeneration, where terraced houses were replaced with shopping precincts. Here I found inspiration for my figurative paintings, capturing scenes of people experiencing everyday life. I developed my work to include the emergence of shopping malls like the Trafford Centre and even painted pictures of the aftermath of the Manchester bombing.

I believe that my work reflects a part of social history and I have continued to do this during the coronavirus pandemic which has hit our city.

At the beginning, there was the panic buying. My first reaction to this, as an artist, was to record these images. My painting, of an old lady staring at empty shelves, hopefully conveys the feeling of despair when she and others alike her found that basic items such as toilet paper had been stripped from the supermarket shelves. By painting this scene, I wanted to make people realise the importance of what was happening.

People wearing face masks, especially when travelling was another image which showed the difference to everyday life this terrible virus has caused. Essential workers who travel on trams, buses, trains and in London on the often overcrowded Underground have been very much in the media. I have painted images which depict workers waiting and travelling, on public transport, wearing these masks.

With this in mind, I also did a painting of a friend’s daughter, in hospital, wearing her PPE, as a reminder of her time on the front line and this recognises how much we owe the staff of the NHS for their self- sacrifice by putting themselves at risk so that others can survive.

British people are well known for their propensity to form a queue and during this time we have become adept at it. My painting of a shopping queue records the conformity to rules and patience exhibited whilst waiting to go into a shop. Social distancing has become the norm and I have tried to capture this when I noticed two gentlemen sitting apart in the sunshine.

I have always tried to capture special events in my work such as paintings of Prince Charles’ wedding to Lady Diana where street parties of celebration took place. Salford Art Gallery purchased one of my paintings as part of their social history programme. I recorded the recent low- key 2020 VE celebrations that took place in Salford, where families decorated their houses and kept their distance. I was able to obtain permission to use other people’s images for my painting but didn’t experience their party myself, which was a shame.

Although, in Salford for many people, things have changed in different ways, for me, not being able to visit the countryside, another love of mine, has been upsetting. I enjoy painting landscapes usually in oils, using a palette knife to capture fragmented views often hidden. I also like to paint more traditional scenes in watercolour. Fortunately, during this lockdown period, I have been able to use old sketches and photographs and completed several new landscapes which I hope to exhibit at Saddleworth Art gallery in September, if my exhibition can go ahead.

As art galleries have been closed, during this time, I have been fortunate to exhibit in online exhibitions and created a VR gallery of my paintings. I have had my work published in magazines such as Lancashire Life and Tubes. I have also experienced a radio interview, on Chat&Spin about my work.

For many people art can have a therapeutic effect, especially during this pandemic and lockdown whether through its practice or appreciation. For me, it was a chance, in some small way, to record for posterity, paintings from events that moved me.

I believe that we are taking part in living history, and artwork, like mine, will be important social evidence for future generations to see how the coronavirus of 2020 effected the people of Salford and the UK.

Picture of a painting of people wearing facemasks

Philip Westcott
www.philipwestcott.co.uk

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