MAC Make-Up Art Cosmetics: Richard Phillips
Richard Phillips makes lush, provocative, seven-foot tall oil paintings of men and women based on photographs he cuts out of magazines. Most are fashion models or female pop stars, though he also painted Leonardo DiCaprio and George Bush. Removed from their original context, cropped and pumped up with vibrant colour, he teases out the subliminal messages embedded in each image, often an equation of sex, propaganda and power.
Now 46, Mr. Phillips welcomes collaborations with fashion companies; previously he created an ad campaign for Mont Blanc. He also has adapted one painting to evening bags by Jimmy Choo, and contributed another to an episode of Gossip Girl, in which he also appeared, playing himself. He lives in New York with his fiancé, the German-born artist Josephine Meckseper, and is represented by the Larry Gagosian Gallery, with which he has had successful shows in both Los Angeles and New York.
Linda Yablonsky: Have you ever worn makeup, Richard?
Richard Phillips: Oh, sure. Absolutely. I was on the death-rock Goth scene in Boston in the early 1980s. I lived with members of a Goth band and an actual witch, so wearing eyeliner and black nail polish was really standard at that time.
Q: For your collaboration with M·A·C, you were given the colour palette of a particular line of makeup to work with. Not black.
A: It was hard to make sense of it at first.
Q: That surprises me. Aren't you used to painting women in makeup?
A: I know how to make it look as if the makeup is on flesh but I don't know how the makeup artists actually do it.
Q: So how did you figure it out?
A: I worked with Pascal Dangin, the number one photo retoucher in the fashion business. You know how the human body changes to adapt to its environment? Pascal takes evolution farther, beyond what is physically possible. He has adapted the body to meet unreasonable expectations of beauty, literally creating forms that the eye wants to see.
Q: But didn't you adapt this painting from one you made for your last show at the Gagosian Gallery?
A: When M·A·C approached me, I knew I wouldn't have time to make a new painting but I thought I could "retouch" the one I had just finished for the show. Why confine retouching to photography alone? Instead of trying to repaint my canvas with the M·A·C makeup, I thought I could ask Pascal to put the makeup on the painting by digital means.
Q: So you virtually "made up" the painting, the way a makeup artist would a living model?
A: Yes. It was quite a unique collaboration. Cosmetics create different types of appearances for a face and to have them put into a painting of a face – I don't think it's ever been done before.
A: Pascal created six different possibilities from the M·A·C palette, using so many different layers and separations of colour it made my head spin.
Q: Then how did you decide on the right "look" for the painting?
A: The first examples were shocking because they were too bright. The M·A·C colours were much more muted and subdued. So we made the lips darker and cooled down the skin tone. The eye shadow is also radically different than it is in the painting, where the head appears upside-down. Here it's sideways. We really put a lot of effort into creating something extraordinary.
Q: Did you choose this painting to work on because it's a close-up of a woman's face?
A: She's not wearing heavy makeup in the original, so she made the perfect canvas. It's called "Bondensee," the name of the lake that joins Switzerland, Austria and Germany. In my painting, it appears in the background behind the model, whose image I took from a porn magazine.
Q: It's a very arresting image, partly because it is cropped so closely, and partly because of the dark tones of the M·A·C colours you've applied to it.
A: In painting, you can create power through beauty, and when I speak of power I am speaking of creating unfulfilled desire. This image is advertising something that isn’t there – the unseen eroticism of the rest of her body. The painting is really an expression of sensuality.
Q: Funny, but the reproduction still seems more like a painting than a photograph. The eyelashes alone are incredibly detailed.
A: I know. You could put your face right up to this face and it will still look exactly as if it were painted. I was floored when I saw it. I'm still not over it.
The MAC Richard Phillips Collection features:
Hold the Pose
and Full Body
New Spirit and On Display
The In the Gallery 4 pan eyeshadow palette(pictured above) features the shades Lightfall, Look at the Eyes, In the Gallery and Private Viewing.
Plush Lash in Plushblack
Powder Blush in The Perfect Cheek and Notable.
Credits: Richard Phillips Nuclear via artnet,Untitled via all-art.org and MAC
Labels: MAC Cosmetics