Cockpit To Front Cover!
John Caruso discovers the history behind our summer ’19 cover and the bold, colourful images often displayed as nose-art on many bombers in the second world war.
It’s 1943 and the B-25 Mitchell bomber is flying sorties over the South Pacific against the Japanese. Cheekily displayed on its nose, alongside the aircraft’s name is a pin-up girl, smiling assuredly, wishing all onboard a safe return.
In fact, the girl on our cover is a Pop Art piece inspired by a Vargas Girl, a pin-up from famous Peruvian painter Alberto Vargas, whose work featured in more than nine million magazines and was distributed free of charge to American troops all over the world during the second World War. Tens of thousands of pin-up girls transformed into nose-art on everything from mid-sized bombers like the B-25 Mitchell to the powerful B-29 Superfortress.
Renowned British originator of Pop Art, and now Noosa local Peter Phillips, is responsible for the creation that graces this edition’s cover. We featured Peter in our winter 2019 issue earlier in the year, and his daughter Zoe says the image is empowering and inspiring.
Is the image relevant today? In what has become a very PC world, is it palatable in our current climate? Sexist?
“The girl is cheeky and sexy, and it celebrates women and the female form, and it’s funny how that short jump-suit she’s wearing is back in fashion today,” Zoe said. “Women want to celebrate their own sexuality whereas in the past it use to be men who celebrated women’s sexuality and it’s refreshing for women to do that and I love the fact that IN Noosa Magazine also sees it as a celebration by featuring it on the cover.”
Peter’s piece, Girl Fragment was created in Majorca, Spain in 2001 and then exhibited in London.
“Dad would paint these separate pieces that would over time become larger paintings, however with this one, it was so beautiful that he left it as is, and it became a stand-alone piece. And it’s a relatively small piece compared to the pieces he usually does, this one is only 46 x 30cm, so it’s unique in that sense too,” Zoe explains.
Beautiful, powerful women are evident throughout Peter’s work with even more females featuring on his canvasses and multi-media compositions after he met Zoe’s mum, Claude Marion Phillips.
“He started painting more women and he was being inspired by pin-ups. The objectification of women was never part of that process. My mum was a model and my dad celebrates femininity and once they met in the late 60s, that’s when he started to incorporate more pin-ups in his works, leveraging the pin-up girls from painter Alberto Vargas, and Girl Fragment is one of those pieces.
“My mum is featured in dad’s work; I’ve been featured, Marylin Monroe, Bridgette Bardot, the Vargas girls, and several female Italian actresses of the time – we’ve all played a central role in Peter’s work,” she says.
Before Zoe’s mum passed away, she promised to continue to look after her father and ‘carry the torch’ with regards to his work, his studio and his legacy.
“One of the reasons we moved to Noosa, was because it offered a space and an environment where Peter could be inspired and continue to create like he did when we lived in Majorca,” she explains.
The studio, next to the house, on the lush green hinterland property, was meant to only be a studio where Peter could work quietly.
“When construction was complete, we hung dad’s work on the wall, we stood back and thought, this looks like an exhibition space, it looks better than a lot of galleries that are around, so we turned it into a gallery that’s open by appointment,” Zoe says.
The gallery is part of a new business that Zoe and her husband Read launched a few months ago called Art Tours Noosa. To find out more about this unique experience, read our contributing artist, Pete Goodlet’s review of the inaugural tour.
“Dad has slowed down a lot. He used to work on about five paintings at a time, now he might do one per year,” Zoe said.
“Unfortunately, his body is deteriorating faster than his brain is, however, he still researches daily. He loves discovering imagery, and he’ll probably start doing more and more with an assistant because his hands are shaky, and his vision is deteriorating,” Zoe says.
Peter Phillips celebrated a significant birthday in May! He turned 80.
“He’s focused on sculpture now. There’s an exciting project that he is doing with Lévy Gorvy, a London based gallery, called Hybrid 2.0; it was a successful research project that launched in the 60s. My dad, together with Gerald Laing, went out and interviewed 175 different art curators and art leaders, asking questions about what their perfect art object would look like. Colour, shape, material, and then they fed all that data into a machine and it created an art piece based on the results. The piece went on to exhibit next to work from Andy Warhol and magazines like Time and Life did a feature on this piece of art at the time,” Zoe says.
Peter’s doing the same again, this time utilising modern technology with submissions coming in via the website www.levygorvy-hybrid.com.
“This new piece of art will launch in May 2020 and I’d encourage as many art enthusiasts as possible to explore the website and get involved. More than a thousand people have already taken the survey,” Zoe explains.
INspiring art will always stand the test of time. Our cover image was first created in 1943; reinvented by Peter Phillips in 2001 and now graces the front cover of IN Noosa Magazine. That’s quite the journey! Will it be relevant? Politically correct? Sexist? Adored by a whole new generation in a whole new environment?
I like what Polish-American novelist Jerzy Kosinski once wrote, ‘The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke’.