Remembering Philip Chircop

Remembering Philip Chircop

Philip Chircop 
Credit: Philip Chircop's Family

In spite of the reticent nature of Maltese artist Philip Chircop (1943-2019) it would be hard to find any true connoisseur of art in Malta who is unacquainted with Chircop’s penetrating forays into the depths of abstraction; works that mingle painting and drawing with exuberant brushwork and intuitive marks intertwining layer upon layer of emotional intensities.  It is indeed striking, and admirable, to see the kind of unstinting passion sustained in this artist’s entire oeuvre focused to perfecting his pictorial language, in this instance the language of abstract painting.  

Canvas upon canvas, hue upon hue, the artist gives us a consistent progression of cosmic experiences explored on two-dimensional planes.  Beyond mere "variations on a theme", the medium of paint has served Chircop as a forensic instrument for revealing infinite inner vistas - as though with every dot, line, curve, squiggle or floating biomorph he would reveal some new knowledge about the ether world or unravel some mystery about the in-betweenness of things. 

Beyond the cerebral, colour carries a vibration, akin to Kandinsky's kinesthetic obsession. Chircop's canvases too are compositions infused with musical sensibilities.  His range, from watered tints to thick opacities, render his surfaces with voids and edgy silences, agitated peaks, obscure patterning or flow-forming formlessness. "For me it is like music", Chircop attests. Grappling with the intangible he believed it was impossible (and unnecessary) for an artist to talk about his art.  This generously gestures to onlookers to seek affinities of the heart rather than the eye.

It is likewise for the mixed-media pair forming an integral part of the Central Bank's prestigious collections: Abstract I and II; works on paper 80x103.7 cm; dated 11/1970. These paintings are relatively early in Philip Chircop's broad spectrum of abstraction.  They meld "tile-like" repetitive patterns with situated emotive black holes and translucent slashes of runny water-based media. The late art historian, Dennis Vella, had described the pair as "stylistically ambiguous". Though these labyrinthine "Roman Motifs" are generally sparse, spirally marks and soft globular forms recur and abound in several paintings. 

The artist leaves Malta abundance and legacy, in terms of visual, cultural and educational enrichment. His distinctive contribution to the development of the abstract idiom in Malta is a fine example of artistic research through investigative praxis. This alongside the artist's life-long dedication to tutoring youngsters through the visual language he loved most.

Abstract I

Abstract I
Mixed media on paper                 
80 x 103.7 cm

Abstract II

Abstract II
Mixed media on paper 
80 x 103.7 cm

Artist's Biographical Synopsis:

Philip Chircop was born in 1943 in Zebbug, Malta, on 2 December 1943, the youngest of five children. He built a constructive career that spans more than 50 years placing him as one of the distinctive names associated with abstract art. He studied at the Malta School of Art under recognised names including George Borg, Antoine Camilleri, Karmenu Mangion and Esprit Barthet, followed by studies in Perugia, Italy.  He exhibited his work extensively and is today recognised as one of the key figures of abstract art in Malta.  Philip Chircop died in Malta on the 15 August 2019.

References:

Vella Dennis & Vella Theresa; Art & Architecture; Central Bank of Malta, 2011
Fiorentino Emmanuel; Philip Chircop; Bank of Valletta, 2007
https://philipchircopmalta.com

Dr Ruth Bianco

Dr Ruth Bianco

B.A.(Hons)(Lond.),P.G.C.E.,Cert.Dip.Stud.,M.A.(Kent),Ph.D.(Kent)

Dr Bianco is a Senior Lecturer and currently lectures in contemporary fine art, modern art history, visual culture and architecture within the Built Environment Faculty at the University of Malta, where she has established interdisciplinary artistic research holistically in 'Art-in-Architecture' spatial practice exhibitions. She also curates exhibitions independently and has coordinated international artist collaborations and student educational workshops contributing to interdisciplinary fine art research. Dr Bianco has a keen interest in international art relations, cultural geography and artistic diplomacy with a focus on the role of soft power, art mediation and connective spaces.