Esther Windsor

Philipe Bradshaw

The Waiting Room
School of Art and Design
University of Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton WV1 1SB

Curated by Esther Windsor


The Good Life presents the work of Philippe Bradshaw 'Mid Life Crisis' in the newly situated and renovated space of the waiting room. Plate glass, concrete, lino and a wood veneered ceiling are the features of this first floor space in a 70's high rise block of the art school. This work is the result of a four week residency and is newly commissioned, marking Philippe's return to solo practice.

The 1970's BBC sitcom, The Good Life' situated in Surbiton, suburbia, speaks of middle class moralities and middle aged crisis's. Masculine/feminine, city /country, industrial /pastoral. freedom/constraint, work /leisure, the raw and the cooked are essential structures contested in the site of the garden. Suburban homesteaders, Tom and Barbara Good, gruo about in the vegetable patch, wrestling with pigs and chickens, tolerated by their neighbours Gerry and Margot, whose idea of the good life is supermarket ease. Class and sexual difference provide the tensions of nature/ culture. Tom is wholesome in cords and woolly handknrts and Felicity saucy in dungarees and Wellingtons. Honest clean dirt posed against city smut in the suburbs, steeped in a sense of yearning and morbidity amongst lattices of semis and parades of shops, just off the edge of the city.

Philippe lives in a glass house in a concrete garden. His greenhouse, Rolling Stone is an urban pod, an irony on the cosy comforts of the retreat and secrets of the garden shed. Constructed of a greenhouse of horticultural glass and aluminium frame it is situated in the centre of the gallery, enclosing a set of techno decks spinning on one side and an army regulation sleeping bag laid out on the other. Evidence of every day existence: drying socks, food, men's magazines, cashpoint card and Rizia, records and their covers, compete with the precise clean polished glass of the exterior and rigid techno, which resonates through the gallery, rattling glass panes of greenhouse and windows. 'Excuse me do you fuck as well as you dance' plays Twisted: Wayne G, (featuring Stuart Who). The artificial constructed sounds of techno in the garden, reek of conformity and control. Clandestine late night clubbing and the delights of the Torture Garden are essentially suburban in their escape to Eden. Mid Life Crisis: copy 1, comprises a curtain of aluminium chain, falling from the ceiling covering a large window overlooking a busy ring road. The curtain recreates Jean Honore Fragonard's The Swing. The image depicts a young lady upon a tree swing with a red velvet seat, wearing a frothy pink dress. Her lover gazes up through her parted legs. A painterly control of nature in chains: blues, greens salmon pink, silver and gold, red and brown makes reference to Rococo, whilst suggesting bondage and struggle in a supernatural landscape. Mid Life Crisis .speaks of hysterical fears of lost youth and vitality. Couch Potato, is an elegantly threadbare divan^pfa of belle epoque reproduction. It holds within its' sagging cushions a mound of long sprouted seed potatoes, pink fur apples. Couch Potato quietly suggests, on the far side of the gallery, the waste and decline of time spent on the couch waiting for life which is elsewhere.

Rife with inexplicable domestic crimes and neighbourhood watch, 'chucking out the chintz' and mid life crisises, suburbia is home to the garden. An industry of suburban commuters, home own, watch 'changing rooms' and garden, whilst middle England protest the right to party, environmental politics and self sufficiency. Fondness for gardening is a quintessentially English quality: paradise regained, the Arcadian ideal, the rose tint of the pastoral. The garden is an environmental icon of Parochialism and nostalgia, where taste marks out class. The Good Life articulates Mid Life Crisis and the conflicts of survival and decay.

This exhibition is kindly supported by CIC Screens and Stepan Tertsakian ltd

Obituary - The Independent

Philippe Edward Bradshaw, artist: born Stamford, Lincolnshire 26 December 1965; (two sons with Andrea Mason); died Paris c25 August 2005.

The life of Philippe Bradshaw, like his work, demonstrated an eccentricity more extreme than that of the average English artist and there was perhaps a genuinely dangerous pitch to his recklessness, his f-you panache, which stood out even amongst the loud antics of his peers those fabled YBAs or "Young British Artists". None of this diminishes the genuine shock and loss of his untimely death aged 39, nor the manner of his going, his body having been found in the Seine.

Bradshaw, whose mother was French, spoke the language like a native and after years of somewhat sordid London living had moved to Paris some five years ago and seemed solidly happy in that city, for both domestically and especially in terms of his career things had rarely seemed so promising. His dealer and patron there was the highly successful gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac, who had persuaded him to live in France and helped find him studio space. As Ropac regrets,

What makes this so terrible and surprising is that everything was just starting to go so well for Philippe. It's such a waste

because it took him a long time to get this success: he always seemed to be a bit behind the rest of his contemporaries but now it was all happening.

Indeed Bradshaw, who was notorious in Britain for working in an unconverted ladies' lavatory, a studio found for him by his close friend Tracey Emin, by contrast was building a prestigious career on the Continent.

He had recently collaborated with the choreographer Merce Cunningham, he had commissions from major collectors, he had just been working in Austria, had exhibitions from Saarbrücken to Salamanca and this month was supposed to start work in Texas and San Francisco. None of this would suggest Bradshaw took his own life, but despite the relative stability of his Parisian existence there remained a certain extremeness, notably glamorous at times. For, in common with a long lineage of English artists, Bradshaw enjoyed radical social contrasts of high and low - hanging out with his mate Malcolm McLaren at his favourite lesbian tapas bar, mingling with the sort of dealers who don't deal art or cavorting with European aristocrats of the more decadent strain. Ropac admits:

Really nobody knows what happened, there was no indication, no sign, he was always nervous about things and a bit of a wild kid who did unusual moves. But I don't think he really planned anything, maybe it was a certain use of substances, a certain drinking, going to the edge. I had him on the phone the day before he went missing, he'd made a strange phone call to his mother and she was worried and called the gallery. But I was not so worried, he was often in these anxious moods.

Whatever the circumstances, and there have even been rumours of foul play within the narco demi-monde, Bradshaw went missing from his apartment on the Friday and his body was only retrieved from the river on the Sunday. " Nothing has been confirmed, nothing is known," as Ropac acknowledges.

Bradshaw, whose father was English, was born in Lincolnshire and after studying at Leicester Polytechnic moved down to London and enrolled at Goldsmiths College. Bradshaw was there from 1985 to 1988, the period when Goldsmiths was the veritable crucible of the "new" British art that was soon to be so celebrated, and his fellow students included Damien Hirst et al. In 1993 Bradshaw formed an art group, "Andrea + Philippe", with Andrea Mason and they commenced on an ambitious project of glazing and improving wartime bunkers around the country, subsequently creating a fictitious estate agent to try and market these refurbished properties. As a collaborative team they also crashed the prestigious international exhibition "Documenta X" and created two sons, Fîla and Pépé.

From 1998 Bradshaw branched out on his own, building a distinctive oeuvre out of such elements as amateur porn, grotesque sex toys, throwaway debris, KY wrestling and techno music played so loud as to become a sculptural object in itself. For a solo at the Showroom in London Bradshaw produced a disposable lighter entitled David & Goliath featuring the famous penis of Michelangelo's sculpture. For an exhibition in Bethnal Green, London, Bradshaw stacked up his numerous empty beer cans and then urinated all over them, a performance entitled An Inventory of Everything I Drank. And on leaving London he noted and piled up everything from his Brixton studio before setting it all on fire, making a film of the process. As even Emin is quoted as saying, "His art is absolutely mad."

But Bradshaw's trademark work was probably his chain-mail installations, in which he would project pictures, whether Warhol's Electric Chair or a Fragonard beauty, on to anodised aluminium curtains which not only obscured the original image but lent them a delicious glitter and glow. These aluminium chain tapestries were as beautiful as they were sinister, their often pornographic sources transformed into a waterfall of shimmering pixels, like a Baroque curtain cutting off some sex-shop backroom.

And they were certainly successful, whether featuring in a group show like "Sex & the British" curated by Norman Rosenthal of the Royal Academy or starring solo at the highly influential gallery Deitch Projects in New York's SoHo. As Bradshaw put it,

We enjoy the cynical, the empty when we can overcome the icon, we enjoy being what we are: iconoclasts, breakers of images, in bondage.

He is buried in Perpignan, where his parents live.
Adrian Dannatt

Obituary - The Guardian

Philippe Bradshaw, who has died unexpectedly, aged 39, had an energetic perversity that both fuelled and stymied his art. Although at the centre of the Goldsmiths College generation that included Damien Hirst, Gary Hume and Sarah Lucas (during and after college he shared a house with Michael Landy and Ian Davenport, and a studio with Fiona Rae), he did not share their early market success.
Bradshaw's output was erratic, idiosyncratic and unpredictable. He loved to create (and sometimes wreak havoc in) environments, often living in his exhibition spaces and filling them with high-decibel techno music and the detritus of his daily life, as well as disquieting combinations of objects and images. His 1999 exhibition-cum-residency at the Showroom Gallery, London, resulted in a dark, threatening environment that included a rock garden made from rubble, a chaise longue planted with pink fir apple potatoes and a pornographic film projected on to a shimmering screen of multicoloured metal chains.

Bradshaw was born in Uppingham. When the family moved to Stamford, he attended the boy's school in the Lincolnshire town as had his father - an agricultural merchant - and his grandfather before him. But his mother was French and Philippe always felt more empathy with his Gallic lineage.

While at Goldsmiths in 1986, Bradshaw met Andrea Mason, who was studying languages at King's College. They lived and worked together for 13 years, and had two sons, Fila and Pépé. Between 1993 and 1998 they collaborated under the name Andrea + Philippe on a series of ambitious projects. For Landfill they toured the country researching wartime pillboxes and set up a faux estate agents at the IAS gallery in Chelsea, complete with property details, offering to glaze the lookout apertures to order. In 1997 they took Landfill on the road in a caravan, but the next year it was burnt to the ground by arsonists outside Norwich Gallery, where it had formed part of a show of artist's multiples (signed editions for sale).

Bradshaw's 1998 exhibition, The Waiting Room, in Wolverhampton (during which he lived on site in a greenhouse) launched his solo career and introduced the curtains of multicoloured anodised aluminium chain that were to play a prominent part in his subsequent work, both incorporating images and acting as a fluid screen for films and projections that ranged from the art historical to the pornographic. With glimpses of Fragonard's Swing, Mondrian's grids or the pole dancers of Kingsland Road in Hackney, these veils of linked metal were both decorative and hardcore, emitting a sinister glamour and a strong erotic charge.

Although Bradshaw largely eschewed the art establishment, it began to recognise him. In 2000 he received a Hamlyn Award and showed alongside Gilbert & George, Tracey Emin, Jake and Dinos Chapman and Sarah Lucas in Sex and the British, curated by the Royal Academy's Norman Rosenthal in Paris and Salzburg. He began to make forays into the art market, in 2001 showing at Jeffrey Deitch Projects, New York and, his first solo show, at Galerie Thaddeus Ropac in Paris. In 2004 he was given his first museum show, at Museum Der Moderne Salzburg Rupertinium: A Fly in the House was a characteristically multifarious installation of chain curtains, painted papier mâché sculpture, live models and found objects.

At the time of his death, Bradshaw was based in Paris and poised to embark upon new work based on The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault, an appropriately dark, erotic image created nearly two centuries earlier by another mercurial artist who also died too young. His sons survive him.

Philippe Edward Bradshaw, artist, born December 26 1965; died August 25 2005
Louisa Buck