Socks and self-portraits take Highgate artist from Here to Now

The Return of God by Phil Diggle

The Return of God by Phil Diggle - Credit: Courtesy of Phil Diggle/Highgate Gallery

Self portraits made while "down and out in Camden Town," and a giant abstract canvas with socks are part of the reopening show at Highgate Gallery.

Artist and art teacher Phil Diggle stages 'Here and Now Tathandlung' at the gallery in South Grove this month.

Diggle, whose brother Steve was guitarist with The Buzzcocks, was part of Manchester's punk scene before moving to a rundown house in Royal College Street in 1983. Two self-portraits and a painting of Camden Town Group artist Walter Sickert date from the period when he was studying for an MA in Art History at Chelsea School of Art.

Self portrait from 1983

Self portrait from 1983 - Credit: Highgate Gallery/Phil Diggle

Diggle was known for creating "live action paintings" in Manchester's pubs and venues during his brother's gigs. One of his abstracts hung in the city's Hacienda Club, and Factory Records boss Tony Wilson once paid him to create a huge artwork in New York's Limelight club during a Happy Mondays performance. 

"It was hedonism. There were buckets of paint which went across the tables, people were taking their clothes off and rolling in it and the painting ended up outside a complete mess," recalls the artist who has lived on Archway Road for 30 years.

Diggle brings the same energy to his abstract oils on "massive tarpaulins, half cotton half tarp". For him, painting is "an intense physical process". 

Portrait of Walter Sickert

Portrait of Walter Sickert - Credit: Phil Diggle

"A lot of art is smooth and polite but my paintings have a lot of action in them. It's rough and raw. I let loose, engage my energy, and immerse myself in my authenticity.

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"During lockdown I was thinking about myself as an artist looking back at my career and how it's always on subjects around individuality. This is going back to your roots. It's like these paintings tell a story from 1983 to now.

From Here and Now by Phil Diggle

From Here and Now by Phil Diggle - Credit: Phil Diggle/Highgate Gallery

Phillip Diggle Here And Now runs at Highgate Gallery from April 16-19.

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