Philippe Thélin’s exuberant figure paintings are at once brutal and spontaneous, their richly colored surfaces erupting in fits of ecstasy. A self-taught artist living in Montreux, Switzerland, Thélin was a geologist for thirty-five years and kept his painting practice private until 2012. Once revealed, his already robust body of work expressed the internal turmoil of a painter giving new form to old, haunting memories. Exorcising lived experiences of death and sickness, Thélin’s wildly expressive canvases are witnesses bearing traces of a cathartic violence.
In his oil painting Tête Rouge, Thélin’s typically gestural brushwork is pared down to flat pools of vivid pigment interrupted by ominous swaths of black. The rough, impasto paint is then erratically etched with a palette knife, the furious scratches subtly rendering the primal form of a human face. Further, Thélin juxtaposes complementary colors to jarring ends; blood red and bright green vibrate against one another in disquieting chaos to create a psychic portrait of a ghostly beast. Focused solely on interiority rather than worldly illusions, Thélin’s paintings burst with an excessive madness, a ferocity that is evidenced in their making.