1970, 1012 x 710mm, Oil on hessian on board
The best known of New Zealand’s neo-expressionist painters, Philip Clairmont studied at the University of Canterbury’s Ilam School of Fine Arts under Rudolf Gopas, Doris Lusk, Don Peebles, and Bill Sutton. Among his fellow students were Tony Fomison, who became a close friend, and Philip Trusttum, who also embraced an expressionist style. Clairmont’s expressionist leanings were already apparent before he came under Gopas’s tutelage; he was an admirer of Francis Bacon while at school. Still, Gopas had a profound effect, discernible in Clairmont’s strongly gestural application of paint, his use of strong primary colours, and the structural strength of his work.
Clairmont held his first solo show in Ōtautahi in 1969, thereafter exhibiting with the Group. In 1973, married with a daughter, he moved to Te Whanganui-a-Tara, where he worked as a postman, painting whenever he could. It was not until 1977, when he moved to Tāmaki Makaurau, that he was able to work as an artist full time.