Philip Wolfhagen is recognised as one of Australia’s leading contemporary painters. His paintings are inspired by the atmospheric landscape of northern Tasmania and the emotive qualities of light and weather.
It's a simple thing, to paint what you love just becuase you love it and want to understand it more fully, but a complicated thing as well, demanding, as it does, a synthesis of personal memory and social history, a lively appreciation of how other artists at other times responded to places they loved, and the ability to express your love in a way that goes beyond mere sentiment, conveying something of real value to others.
How do you paint landscapes at the begining of the twenty first century that still mean something, that don't just repeat what has been done many times before, that speaks today's language and not that of a century ago? How do you avoid nostaglia? These are important questions, especially now, when our relationships to the natural world are subject to such intense debate.
Perhaps the only approach is to tackle history and memory head-on by making them your subject. That is what Philip does and it demands courage. Bob Dylan has said that, when writing Tangeled up in Blue, he was trying to create a prismatic view, to be somebody in the present time conjuring up the past, so that the present and past became enmeshed; history conceived not so much as a story - an onward course or passage with everything assigned its proper place in the narrative - but instead as a mosic or collage that is part of present reality.
So Philip Wolfhagen's landscapes are not only about places, but about the passing of time - the way places change, and the ways they change us and our comprehension of them. They suggest that, instead of searching for new ways to understand our relationship to the land, as people often say we should, we need to revive and reinvigorate the old ones: to reinhabit our histories.
Peter Timms, Philip Wolfhagen Monograph 2005
Philip Wolfhagen studied at the Tasmanian School of Art, Hobart from 1983 to 1984 and from 1986 to 1987 before moving to Sydney, where he studied at the Sydney College of the Arts, the University of Sydney in 1990. He returned to live and work in Tasmania in 1996. Since then he has held over 45 solo exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth WA and Washington DC. In 2003 he exhibited archipelago, a large 6 panel work at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery as part of the 10 Days on the Island festival.
In 2013 a survey exhibition covering 25 years of Wolfhagen’s work, Illumination: The art of Philip Wolfhagen was staged by Newcastle Art Gallery and Tasmanian Museum Art Gallery, which then went on to tour nationally. A major publication accompanied the exhibition with essays by writers Tim Winton, Jane Clark, Craig Judd and William Wright. In 2013 Philip Wolfhagen was included in the major survey exhibition Australia held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the first exhibition of Australian art to be staged at the RA since 1963. Selected group exhibitions include Australian Perspecta, at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney (1997); Uncommon World: Aspects of Contemporary Australian Art, National Gallery of Australia, (2000); Depth of Field, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2003); Constable and Australia, National Gallery of Australia (2006); Wonderful World, The Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide (2007); Time and Place, TarraWarra Museum of Art Victoria (2008); Curious Colony, Newcastle Art Gallery (2010) and New Romantics, Gippsland Art Gallery (2011). He was awarded the winner of the Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of NSW in 2007. His work is held in several public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Newcastle Art Gallery, New England Regional Art Museum, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, TarraWarra Museum of Art and Artbank.