Congratulations to Philjames for his finalist entry into the prestigious Sir John Sulman Prize with his work, ‘Ciggie Butt Queen’.

The work is a continuation of my cigarette-butt paintings, which are in essence still-life paintings, as each butt is painted from life. The works often question art history, in this case the institution of the monarchy.

Ciggie-butt queen shouldn’t be read as an assault on Her Royal Highness, the late Queen Elizabeth II, but preferably as a questioning of colonialism (of which I am a product) and the concept of a monarchy (which I find absurd). Ciggie-butt queen is a small act of rebellion; sometimes we need to destroy in order to rebuild.

Philjames, 2023

‘The sophistication of Philjames’s binary images is that they question the power of allegory itself. How do we symbolise important abstract ideas? How do we represent deeper and spiritual meaning for a world that craves it, without falling back into sentimentality? By reclaiming and reforming the old images, he, perhaps against his better judgment, protects and conserves the lithographs. It reminds us in our own profane times that belief in the young Jesus in a carpenter’s shop once gave people hope; that a Yeoman’s life service meant something enough to be celebrated in a print; and that a street urchin crying would call out from the wall for justice and charity. Can the original still offer something?’ – Dr Ollie Watts 2023

Congrats Philjames!


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