Californian artist Joel Daniel Phillips is a voyeur. Can that statement be separated from notions of Peeping Toms? Phillips describes his practice as ‘an attempt to play with our voyeuristic tendencies toward the indigence surrounding us, hiding in plain sight.’ Then perhaps we can.
Indeed, Joel Daniel Phillips is not glancing furtively from behind a curtain; more peering into a world of which so many choose to ignore. The artist’s drawings of marginalised people, and communities, are tense insights into lives oft overlooked: ‘the drawings are a visual record of my striving to recognise unknown and unnoticed individuals through the tip of my pencil,’ he explains, ‘I am fascinated by the intricacies and commonalities that we share as humans, and search for moments when our projected senses of self are transparent, allowing deeper, more truthful emotions to become visible.’
Phillips’s portraits are impressive in scale, and detail, and several currently make up Belongings; an exhibition of his charcoal and graphite drawings at San Francisco gallery, Hashimoto Contemporary. Standing tall, and presented as diptychs, the life-sized works document that moment we all encounter when making eye contact with individuals from outside our comfort zone; that fleeting moment where narrative is in free flow, where emotion and truth are at their rawest. Phillips’s portraits connect and communicate, they are more than mere snapshots in time; they are our shame. They are, according to the artist, ‘an attempt to play with our voyeuristic tendencies toward the indigence surrounding us, hiding in plain sight.’ Emotive stuff, indeed.