The pages of Planet seldom feature artists who are widely known. Perhaps it’s a function of being in Wales not to become a household name – we have few galleries to showcase our visual artists and they get scant media attention (Planet notwithstanding). But if being in Wales makes it harder to get noticed, so traditionally does being a woman, starting to exhibit later in life, and working through the medium of paint. The big career opportunities favour younger artists working in fashionable idioms from the fashionable colleges. That’s tough for those who come by more dappled, diverse routes, and a pity for the rest of us, for in the art world as in politics, narrow life experience results in narrow vision.
All these factors may have slowed the professional career of Philippa Robbins, who turns 50 this year: she’s a painter who lives in Wales and she trained and started showing her work only after bringing up two children. Nevertheless, her first ever solo exhibition last summer has begun her public emergence as a challenging artist with a mature, enriching grasp of life beyond the walls of ‘the academy’.
When her exhibition was being planned – at the intriguing and discriminating Art Shop in Abergavenny – Philippa asked if I would help her with her selection and write something for the invitation card. I had seen a lot of her work, thanks to some random coincidences revolving around a seaside street in Aberporth and a growing friendship, but it was still a revelation to follow her progress and explore the stockpiles in her studio from years of painting.