The neglected religion of Philip Clairmont (2000)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
Philip Clairmont (1949-1984) is discussed within New Zealand's art history as an expressionist. This was only one aspect of his oeuvre. Unfortunately, many critics and art historians have neglected the importance of religion and spirituality in Clairmont's work, which limits subsequent analysis. A scrutiny of selected examples addresses this oversight and provides an alternative interpretation which focuses on the significance of religion in Clairmont's imagery. Although he did not adhere to a particular belief system or doctrine, Clairmont did use the iconography of numerous religions to convey a myriad of personal and political concerns, often presented symbolically within the domestic interior. Initially, Clairmont's use of religion appears incompatible with his lifestyle which was shaped by drug use and involvement with hippy culture. On closer inspection however, Clairmont's interest in the seemingly secular theories of psychology, art history and drug culture reveals a strong spiritual component. Freudian psychoanalysis reinterpreted religious ideology: the unconscious, for example, shares many traits with the soul. Drug theory combined religious concepts such as transcendence and enlightenment with the unconscious. Via art history, Clairmont was exposed to a rich source of religious imagery, affecting his choice of subject matter. Religion, psychology, drug culture, and art appear diverse influences but were unified in the promotion of alternative realities which Clairmont experienced in the 1970s. In fact, Clairmont's belief in such an 'outsider view' lies at the core of his work. With the assistance of drugs and the language of symbolism, Clairmont hoped to reveal realms beyond everyday experience and to reflect his unconscious or possibly some supernatural force. The enduring preoccupation in New Zealand art with landscape and indigenous culture and spirituality has marginalised Clairmont's expressionist style. Appreciating the religious features in his work counters such marginalisation, challenges traditional perceptions of the artist, broadens the scope of analysis of his oeuvre, and enriches understandings of his imagery.
KeywordsClairmont, Philip, 1949-1984; Painting, New Zealand--20th century; Painting, Modern--Religious aspects; Religion in art
RightsAll Rights Reserved
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