Artist Paul Flippen
a style all his own
The assistant professor of painting and drawing in the School of Art and Design at Wichita State University has taken some of ancient philosopher Aristotle’s theories and put them in an art form so personalized that even the most inexperienced art critic can understand.
Flippen’s work will be on display in the Earle N. Wright Gallery inside the Brown Center on the Arkansas City campus from Oct. 1 through Nov. 15 with Artist’s Talk on Oct. 11, 7:30.
“What I’ve been doing is thinking about ways in which we can use these same elements (earth, wind, fire, water) as metaphors in how we present ourselves or live our lives,” Flippen said. “Air is something that yes, we breathe, but for most of us, the expression of air is speaking to one another. We are, quite literally, full of hot air.”
Flippen’s exhibit will include large paintings and a series of small paintings and preparatory drawings leading to the larger image. Most are oil on panels. His larger works occasionally are on canvas. By displaying his preparation drawings for the larger painting, Flippen hopes to help viewers understand how a painting evolves.
His subjects tend to focus on two main elements: still life that tend to act as metaphorical stand-ins as day-to-day events in his life, and self-portraits, or an image that might refer to his wife or daughter. “With this particular body of work, instead of relying on still-life elements to carry the metaphorical content, I’ve been thinking about earth, wind, fire and water,” Flippen said. “Aristotle came up with this theory of chemical elements that was wrong. He lays it out in such consistent logic that it’s appealing, but it’s wrong.” Flippen said then Leonardo da Vinci came along and developed a system of colors as an offshoot of the same Aristotle elements, namely that fire is red, the sky is blue, water is green and the earth is yellow, “which is a bit of a stretch,” Flippen said.
“It’s interesting to me how people try to force social interactions into schematic systems that get silly after a while,” he said. “A lot of my work is discovering imagery, but discovering the implications of that imagery in organizing the painting,” he said.