The once pristine, hard-edged lines of a parking lot now spotted and faded from years of wear and tear. The sterile, smooth exterior of a concrete structure gradually weathered and cracked from exposure to the elements. A gleaming bronze pipe slowly oxidizing with age. The natural world merging with the man-made one. Order versus chaos. It’s a struggle that persists in Philip Livingston’s brain and one he manifests through his art.
“I have a tendency to be unorganized but I also have a compulsion to be organized,” Livingston says. “It’s a constant fight.” This fight is obvious in Livingston’s works where disarray and disorder converge with form and structure. “In a lot of my work the background will have the chaos part, and then I like to overlay that background with precise, clean, hard shapes and lines, and that represents my never-ending struggle to keep things in order. You embrace what you can’t control. You create order in a way you can.”
Photography by Eli Warren
Livingston embraced contemporary art while studying at the University of South Alabama. Before studying art and art history, he felt modern art was just expensive crap. “Contemporary art was mysterious and strange to me,” he says. “I was intimidated by it until I began to understand it, then it became very interesting. When someone sees something that is not quickly identifiable, they try to turn it into something it’s not. I see my abstract art as like looking at a super closeup of something that is so close you can’t tell what it is. I’m interested in the raw essence of things. It’s like taking a piece of an element that is bigger, like an old building that is weathered. The patterns left through weathering and aging leave an impression that tells a story. That is a big part of where my inspiration comes from.”
Livingston’s works generally begin on a piece of birch plywood which he covers with layers of acrylic. He then “weathers” the paint with a variety of tools and methods, then moves on to oil for the refining and blending. The final part is adding a sense of order, the precise lines and shapes that contrast with the chaos beneath.
Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, a career in advertising to him to Atlanta, Boston, D.C., and Memphis before Livingston settled in Greenville thirteen years ago. Although he has painted off and on since college, it’s just been in the past four years that he has become “serious” about his work. “This is what I love to do,” he says. “It’s what I have to do to keep some order in my head.”
Livingston’s works are available at saatchiart.com, and several pieces are currently on display at the Dan Lyles Gallery in downtown Greenville. The gallery will host a show of Livingston’s work on February 16. For more, go to philliplivingston.com and danlylesgallery.com.