Phillipe Uzac, Fields II, Gold leaf and oil on canvas, 90x150 cm, FAC2287

Jun 9 – Jul 8, 2023

Philippe Uzac | TIME

9 June - 8 July 2023


Everard Read London presents an exhibition of new oil paintings by French-born, South Africa-based artist, Philippe Uzac.

Uzac finds beauty in the weathered and rusting cityscape of downtown Johannesburg where he kept a studio for many years. The patterns and textures resulting from layers of peeling or fading paint serve as inspiration for Uzac – a manifestation of time passing which evokes a sense of nostalgia and melancholy. “I look for an aesthetic in decay and try to capture it on canvas,” says the artist.

Uzac’s works are achieved through repeated layering of oil paint – up to 15 layers painstakingly applied and allowed to dry before the next is added. Using knives, spatulas, wax and sandpaper, he emulates the effects of time by scratching, rubbing and sanding the layers of paint to achieve his signature, textured surfaces.

The artist’s apparently scarred works serve as metaphors for humanity’s futile pursuit of perfection. His process of abstraction has been described as “a peeling away of the idea of perfection and [the] Western pursuit of man ordering nature - a pursuit that has taken our planet into its present crisis……. Uzac peels away all the outer layers to lay bare the scars and imperfections of world around him, and himself.” *

Uzac’s relocation from an urban to a rural environment has prompted a profound shift in his awareness of the changing seasons and the sense of his place in the universe. He now perceives his own scars as universal – part of the messiness of a life lived.

“My process starts with a layer of black paint”, explains Uzac. “Black is the absence of light and evokes the nothingness so dear to Heidegger. But black is also one of the first colours used by man in the neolithic age so although ‘nothing’ is on the canvas at this stage of the process, it carries already the potentiality of ‘everything’. My work is abstract in essence, but since relocating to a farm I have been stunned by the burnt colours of the dry, Highveld winters and I felt the urge to reproduce them on my canvases."

*Jessica Deutsch,, February 2023 

Image courtesy of Liz Whitter