Philip Buller will return to Park City for artist reception
In 2009, artist Philip Buller, who makes his home in British Columbia, Canada, was commissioned to do a mural for St. Regis Deer Valley.
He came to Park City with his wife to do some research and visited the Park City Museum and learned about mining.
"I learned how important the silver mines were and to me, it was very exotic, because of the miners having to go deep underground," Buller said during a phone interview from Ashland, Ore., where he was visiting his grandchild. "I realized what a beautiful metaphor mining is for making art and living our lives. I mean, the miners are in the dark, searching for something of value, and that’s what I feel like when I’m working. I’m searching during the creative process for some meaning."
Buller said the work, "In the Mines," was one of the most satisfying projects he has created.
Buller is anticipating his return to Park City for an artist reception at Julie Nester Gallery on Friday, March 29, because he said it will be another trip of discovery.
"This particular show at the Nester Gallery is unusual for me because Julie had the brilliant idea of doing a retrospective show," Buller said. "The exhibit will be a decade of my work and will include three new pieces. And I think it will be interesting to see how my work has evolved, because I haven’t been in a room that holds 10 years of my work in one place."
Buller decided to become a painter while he was a student at Sonoma State University in California.
"It was at the time to choose my major, basically," he said. "I was doing sculpture and painting, but I had many more credits in the painting side of it and decided that is where I will stay."
However, his heart "is in some ways" still in sculpture, Buller said.
"I think my paintings feel sculptural to me, because of the method I use," he said. "It’s the physical interaction with the paint that is most related to sculpture, and I’m at my happiest when I’m working on a large-scale work and physically working with the paint."
One of the tools Buller uses is a large rubber squeegee.
"I put the paint on the canvas and move it around with the squeegee," he said. "It’s such as big, blunt tool and you don’t have a lot of control with it, and that’s what makes the physicality of the work instantly visible."
Although Buller is versed in different mediums including watercolor and pastels, he mostly works with oil.
"I learned how to paint with watercolors many years ago, because the medium is portable and generally nontoxic," he said. "But now, I work with oils, and it fits better with the technique I have developed."
In addition to the squeegees, Buller paints through screens he hangs in front of a canvas.
"The screen gives me textures, but more than that, I found that I leave enough paint on the screen that it becomes like a printmaking technique," he said. "I’ll lift the screen off the surface and move the image to another canvas and am able to transfer it instantly."
The screen idea came about by accident.
"The best things come out of not-well-planned ideas," Buller said with a laugh. "I just thought I was going to use the screens to get some texture, but when I finished this one painting, I pulled off the screen and laid it down on another canvas and, all of a sudden, there was another painting already finished."
Over the past decade, Buller has developed the screen method.
"Painting in general can be quite laborious, especially if you’re doing a representational painting, but once it’s on the screen, it’s instantly transferable and that shifts the rhythm of the project, and that makes the process more exciting and less predictable to me," he said. "Consequently, a lot of my work evolves with pieces that feature a lot of the same imagery from this method."
Buller said in order for art to be exciting for him, it needs to stand out in at least three ways.
"The first is that it has to catch my eye," he said. "The art has to work visually for me in a graphic sort of way."
Secondly, the work has to be thought-provoking.
"It has to stimulate me intellectually," Buller said. "That way, not only am I looking at it, but I’m thinking about it."
The third element is more esoteric.
"The work has to touch me in a spiritual way," he said. "That’s a little harder to pin down, but we all know that feeling when we see something like the Mona Lisa."
As an artist, Buller knows that many people struggle to find that spiritual aspect in art, and that proves challenging for him as an artist.
"There are always a certain proportion that question whether or not art deserves a lot of our resources," he said. "As a professional artist, I will, of course, say yes. But if you ask me, I’ll tell you that visual art is one direct path to evoking some sense of what is mysterious about being alive.
"That can happen with all different types of art — music, literature, drama and dance," he said. "But really, think about this: Without that mystery, what does life mean? Does it just become a bunch of chores?"
The Julie Nester Gallery, 1280 Iron Horse Dr., will host a free retrospective exhibition reception for painter Philip Buller on Friday, March 29, from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.julienestergallery.com or http://www.philipbuller.com.
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