Skip to main content

Phil Whiting

A painter who's work engages with landscape as both a physical place and a psychological space. His work excavates ideas of history and geography, place and time.

Personal summary : "Painting the land and evoking half forgotten memories and truths is the best way I know of exploring the human condition. I have long been drawn to places of trauma, be it abandoned post industrial sites, or war zones. My feelings about the physical reality of what is left moves me to paint. I am in a sense a history painter".

Some Reviews of work :


"Phil's art incorporates big events and issues, their awful consequences and our responsibilities for them. His work raises tough questions about what we humans have done, what we have failed to do, what we have looked away from, who we really are, what we should be. This is rare and powerful art which penetrates and can leave its mark on us".

"His work engages with landscape as both a physical place as well as a psychological space.... These works excavate ideas of history and geography, place and time", Phil Nichol, Bayart, 2008.

"Phil Whiting is a painter. His vigorous use of materials- acrylics (in thick striated impasto) inks, charcoal (ground and smeared) applied with brush, knife and 'whatever'- recalls a terrain smarting from the brute force of man's misuse of it. This is not the celebrated picturesque Cornwall we so often see but its dirty, rain-soaked underbelly, a landscape left bereft by voracious mining and haphazard industrial development. Work from Bosnia (his exhibition 'Srebrenica' transfers from the European Parliament Building to the Royal Cornwall Museum in the Spring) is also included - landscapes whose brutal past is etched into their future reminding us of the horrors mankind is capable of creating for itself", Pip Palmer, Galleries magazine, Jan. 2007.

"Predominately black and white, they're built up with thin layers of watery paint that Whiting has splashed, dripped and poured onto the paper using expressive, gestural marks verging on abstraction. Up close, these large paintings are a confusing jumble, as if looking through a mud-spattered window. It's only when you step back, viewing from a distance, that their full power is appreciated. One of the most arresting is 'The Place of Sorrow'. Though the location is not disclosed, its sweeping panoramic view and dramatic sky is incredibly striking. 'Destroyed Muslim Houses Near Srebrenica' is another powerful, psychologically charged work contrasting sharply with the images of Cornwall such as 'Tin Mine Wasteland' or the painting of St Stythians church, its tower just visible in the distance through the drips of paint. Hard-hitting and thought-provoking, this exhibition leaves a lasting impression", David Trigg, Metro, August 2008.

"Haunting, brooding and sublime".  Frank Ruhrmund, review of Phil Whiting's 'Landscape and Memory' exhibition at the Belgrave Gallery, St Ives Times & Echo, 2nd March, 2012.

"Phil Whiting has an international reputation for his work based not just on the excellence of its production but also on the uncanny way in which from simple elements of a scene he teases out deeper, darker, emotions that connect with our memories of familiar places and not so familiar events, to render them indelible", Dr Tony Piper, Stuart House Museum, 2009.

Influences: Very early on American Abstract Expressionism was important to him, especially the paintings of Marc Rothko in which he discerned a profound concern with the human condition - a concern that has resonated with him throughout his career. This was enriched by his discovery of David Bomberg and Frank Auerbach (around 1971) and Paul Nash. In the early 80's he also found affinity with German Neo-Expressionism. He reads Modern History avidly and believes that his generation can provide that essential bridge of knowledge/experience between World War 1 and the uncertainties of today.

Career path: Born London 1948. Some earliest memories were of bomb sites seen from push chair. Grew up in Hull. Left school at 15. Studied Art at Newcastle, Portsmouth and Falmouth Colleges of Art. Hitch hiked across Europe to former Yugoslavia in 1968 showing solidarity with the 'Student Movement' and 'Prague Spring' ("probably my one real achievement whilst a student at Portsmouth College of Art"). In 1974 worked in a psychiatric hospital near Leicester where he met aged survivors of the 'Great Sleeping Sickness Epidemic' which ravaged the West in the early 1920s.  In 1977 he met aid workers working for an NGO in Palestine which left him uneasy by the post colonial approach of Western powers which seemed little more than pursuing a self serving policy of immediate political expediency. Received a supportive letter from Naom Chomsky (with whom he would later profoundly disagree). In 1980 equipped with a sketchbook journal (a format he would from then on adopt for his many travels across the world) he travelled the length of the former Yugoslavia just after Tito died in Spring 1980:  "People extremely apprehensive about the future." Later he trekked alone in SW Crete following the Allies evacuation route of 1941 to Paleokhora. In 1981 he travelled around America visiting 19 States and crossed the border into Mexico. He became deeply disturbed by witnessing the negative effects that the U.S. policy of marginalizing indigenous groups such as the Navajo and the Hopi can have on a people's identity, memory and historical narrative. He felt that in a more compassionate and imaginative world it could work both ways in that both the majority group and the minority group could learn from one another and by so doing enrich humankind's understanding of the world and our place in it. He found that any real sense of excavated memory or history especially in the deserts of the S.W. was tragically absent or indeed hidden. On returning to England he became determined more than ever to become a history painter in the landscape tradition believing that painting can best awaken and speak truth to power directly to a wider audience than can the spoken word. In 1985 a girl friend and her 6 year old twin boys were callously gunned down. This traumatic experience made him well qualified to explore such areas as the aftermath and pity of conflict and war - issues that later began to inform much of his work. He reallocated to Cornwall in February 1989 and embarked on a series of paintings (Landscape and Memory) inspired by Cornwall's dying rich post-industrial past. Concurrently in April 1995 at the height of the Bosnian war and whilst Co-director of a painting school in S.W. France he visited Oradour-sur-Glane with students. So moved with what he saw and disturbed by the genocidal behaviour once again taking place in the heart of Europe when we were promised ‘Never Again’ he made plans for a major project to visit sites of C20th (and later sadly C21st) trauma throughout Europe and the Middle East (later to include New York and further afield across Asia) in an attempt to find answers. His Project became known as 'Places of Mourning in the Western World'. In 1996 he was elected a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists, becoming acting chair in 2006. In 2004 his oil painting 'Flanders Field' was  chosen as her favourite by visiting Arts Minister Estelle Morris (exhibition 'Critics Choice' at The Newlyn Gallery). The exhibition was recommended in 'The Times' by Rachel Campbell-Johnston. In 2005 he was commissioned to accompany the  NGO 'The Fund for Refugees in Slovenia' to Bosnia to bear witness to the aftermath of genocide as a war artist. This culminated in his residency and solo exhibition 'Srebrenica: Paintings from the Grave' held in ‘The Yehudi Menuhin Space’ in The European Parliament Building, Brussels in 2006. Since then he has been invited to give talks and exhibit his work at many institutions including Truro Cathedral, The RCM,  Oxford University, Leigh Day Human Rights Law Firm London, Hereford Cathedral, The BayArt Contemporary Gallery Cardiff, Cardiff University, The Sewell Centre Gallery Radley College, etc, etc, and has received  commissions by organisations such as The Guardian, English Heritage, The NHS, and Amnesty International. 

He relies solely on sponsorship and sales to finance his work. His work in turn has raised thousands of pounds for good causes while helping to raise awareness.

Phil continues to paint and travel extensively in his search for subject matter. In recent years he has embarked on many overland painting expeditions accompanied by his wife Emma travelling through such places as the Balkans, Central and Western Europe, Siberia, Mongolia, China, Nepal, the Middle East and the Arctic Circle.

In 2017 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  


Further quotes: "I personally found them most moving", Peter Hill, Editor 'Daily Express.'

"Haunting paintings", Lee Trewhela, Editor Arts and Leisure,West Briton Newspapers.

"Here, I feel, is an artist who takes as a start important historical subjects and events and transmutes and transforms them, in his personal way, into poetical and magnificent paintings", Roman Halter, artist and Holocaust survivor.

"Sombre but necessary paintings - testimony of an immutable recent history", Professor Paul Gough,UWE,Bristol.


"Cold River Palestinian Refugee Camp, Lebanon.''

Gaza: Gateway to Sorrow.

Who are these children?

The Ghost Desert Syria.

Kakhovka... Ecocide.

Looking for Lorca

Abandoned Greek Village near Fethiye, Turkey.


Places of Mourning in the Western World

Lonely Yacht off Sol Parc, Menorca, Sun-Rise.

Winter Fox in the Chilterns.

Dawn Swans. February Moon Otmoor. We got up early that day to watch the dawn break through the mist at Otmoor. And then a moment of magic...

Become a member

We support our members with: insurance, networks, space, opportunities, R&D awards, profiling, advice and mentoring.
Become a member