Pop-realism artist and cultural satirist Philip Colbert opened his one man show of eight large canvasses at the Saatchi Gallery this week. Personally Colbert is enthusiastic and charming, he is a creative polymath, his pop art has comedic and intellectual levels of social and political commentary; his current medium is painting but his work embraces fashion as wearable art, cars and homes, his goal is to express a holistic pop universe.
Colbert’s muses are the turn of the century artists Sonia and Robert Delauney, key figures in originating the Parisian movement of abstract and expressive art, Sergei Diagelev, founder and impresario of The Ballets Russes and the Existentialism art movement. Colbert selects themes for his paintings, space, construction, London, the kitchen and tourism; choosing the Lobster character as his alter ego he observes the ironies and travesties of C21st lifestyles, he sees the crustaceon as the protagonist of surrealism. The Lobster is dressed in an androgynous all-in-one suit printed with fried eggs. For Colbert the egg is packed with symbolism, the beginning of life, the insult of throwing eggs and the comedy of wearing eggs, he says “the meeting of the yellow and white is the purest symbol of abstraction and satire”; his mouthless wide-eyed Lobster and the egg outfit is an ambiguous expression along the lines of Grayson Perry dressing as a woman. Colbert paints a layered narrative through references to art history, Rubens and Cezanne juxtaposed with everyday consumables personified by branded goods or retailers, iconic architecture and art personalities (Hockney and Lichtenstein), demographics are depicted by folks on the street equating to social welfare and the Bloomsbury folk are the middle class. The Kelloggs cornflakes and Golden Shred marmalade reveal the artist’s sentimentality for his childhood breakfasts and other everyday cleaning items or foods celebrate the absurdity of life in the context of each painting. In his existential “London” painting the seriousness of life is manifested with both Conservative and Labour party nuclear tipped rockets firing into the sky above the National Gallery while a tea-bag pendulum swings towards doomsday, as the Lobster takes a selfie Shakespeare toasts the scene with a Tennents lager. The Scottish born Londoner Colbert likes to choose common everyday elements to juxtapose with more serious references; he notes we live in a time saturated with social media and he uses miniaturised emojis and internet messages to punctuate his work “capturing the contemporary fusion of the online mind and memory”, he confesses he is a user and consumer of Instagram.
The obscenely oversized cruise ship crashing into the ancient city of Venice is an obvious condemnation of the pollution that popularity propagates, computer warnings of “error” “error” and OMG emojis manifest all around the lost Lobster gondolier. Colbert’s paintings are more powerful than words, his current technical skill of painting a collage and balancing between the cartoon and the figurative is impressive. Charles Saatchi, businessman and art connoisseur, was so excited by these painting he personally helped Colbert hang the exhibition.