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PHILIP BRIEL (article first published : 2006-07-17)

Acclaimed Cape Town-based artist Philip Briel return to the province of his childhood to showcase his breathtaking mixed media canvases, set against a surreal backdrop of uncluttered spaces, at the Kizo Art Gallery at Gateway.

An accomplished architect who studied at the University of Cape Town and whose residential designs grace the landscape of that city, Philip Briel couples this 'disciplined and exacting' approach to design with the sense of freedom he has gained through his discovery of expression through art. "Art opened me up to different possibilities,” he comments. “Now I look at planes and elevations as if they are the surface of a canvas, shifting and fluid, not fixed."

The vast openness and expanses evident in his work can probably be traced to his upbringing on a sugar farm in a remote rural area of northern KwaZulu-Natal, combined with his life and work in Europe and Asia. He painted fervently as a child, but it was by accident that he discovered his current technique of 'pouring' paint on mixed media canvases to create his series of monochromatic masterpieces.

"I used to do small controlled paintings in the impressionistic style but in the process of ridding myself of a lot of emotional baggage I started experimenting,” he says. “In the beginning I was still very controlled, though, and became increasingly frustrated until I abandoned one of my attempts in disgust, and left it leaning against a wall. When I returned a few hours later and turned it around, I knew I had finally created something that was worth hanging on a wall."

That first achievement was given to one of Philip Briel's friends. An interior designer was next to order one of his creations. Now, four years later, he has sold in excess of 300 paintings and exhibited at several renowned galleries including London's Stephanie Hoppen Gallery, Cape Town's OKHA, Lisa King and Joshua Rosseau Galleries, as well as Johannesburg's Life, Mezzanine and Hyde Park Galleries. He still juggles this creative expression in his private studio in Higgovale, Cape Town, with work on various architectural projects in the city.

Natalie Bradfield, director and co-owner of Kizo, affirms the fact that the sheer size of Philip Briel's canvases, some reaching a length of four metres, are a fitting feature to occupy the epic space of Kizo's 700m2 floor. "It is incredibly symbolic for us, as the largest privately-owned gallery in KZN and also one of the largest in the country, to host one of the province's greatest artistic achievers," she says.

Philip Briel’s exhibition runs at the Kizo Art Gallery at Gateway until July 30.




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