Phil Roach

Tacoma, WA | by October 7, 2010

Inside his com­fort­able but respectably spar­tan two-​​car garage stu­dio space, Tacoma, Wash­ing­ton artist Phil Roach prac­tices an unex­pected alchemy. Sec­ond­hand lug­gage becomes bag­gage hold­ing mem­ory, fear, and voyeuris­tic long­ings. A trite thrift store flower paint­ing opens into bereft worlds occu­pied by bones and sur­real dreams. While a non-​​descript ply­wood box holds the bow­els of a New York sub-​​way.

Roach inserts peep­holes, phys­i­cal occuli, which act as entry points for the mind’s eye. As he puts it, “My work relies on the expe­ri­ences that oth­ers bring to it. Our abil­ity to cre­ate nar­ra­tives when pre­sented with an object or scene with lit­tle to no infor­ma­tion goes beyond our own expe­ri­ence, going deeper into our sub­con­scious and evo­lu­tion­ary past.”

Though seven years have passed since I first encoun­tered Roach’s work, I still vividly recall the moment I peered into one of his minia­ture cre­ations. I noticed a small, round device, which acted as an invi­ta­tion to press my eye against a mod­estly sized black box (one of three) hang­ing at eye level in a sprawl­ing group show. I was sud­denly pro­jected into a Hopper-​​esque room, vacant, nos­tal­gic, and dislocating.

The moment I placed my eye against the peephole’s cold brass frame, I crossed a thresh­old into a space I was invited to enter but in which I didn’t feel I belonged. Roach’s art exam­ines our con­tem­po­rary culture’s infat­u­a­tion with voyeurism. As stated in a recent exhi­bi­tion state­ment, Roach’s work con­tends with “our per­cep­tions of phys­i­cal and per­sonal space” and the “instinc­tual and recently exploited desires for voyeurism, as demon­strated by the pop­u­lar­ity of ‘real­ity’ tele­vi­sion shows,” cre­at­ing “sit­u­a­tions that place the viewer in posi­tions that ques­tion and com­pro­mise our per­cep­tion of reality.”

Check out an upcom­ing exhibit at Skagit Val­ley Col­lege.

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  • Shira Richman says:

    What a beau­ti­fully writ­ten, sen­so­rily rich piece. Your descrip­tions allow me to feel almost like I have pressed my own eye to the “cold brass” eye­hole frame and entered a space of “vacant, nos­tal­gic” dis­lo­ca­tion. Thank you for let­ting me know about Roach’s work and for inspir­ing me to explore it further.

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