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Tennis Series 1991-1995


In a powerful series on the dynamics of tennis, the designs, shadows and patterns of tennis nets, tennis shoe soles, logos etc combine to form a rich tapestry of design which reflects and indicates a certain South Pacific flavour, for instance, references to weaving, painted rafter patterns and woven tukutuku panels.




"Withdrawing from the obvious device of boldly gestural paint work or action painting to express the physical demands of the sport, he creates a new abstract language of his own to evoke the game. Each of the works is made up off segments of unsized and unstructured canvas, pieced together like strips of astroturf. They depict a distorted aerial perspective of the tennis court. Not from a bird’s eye view but more a microscope’s view…a players rather than spectators viewpoint too.

The dividing court net is visible, with detail blown to outsize proportions: the tracery of a tennis shoe imprint; the trajectory of a tennis ball across the court; the grid of a tennis racket’ the recognisable symbols and colours of commercial marketing are all dissected, layered and superimposed into complex and immediately appealing design elements. There is a strong Pacific influence to the works too, with acknowledgments to tapa cloth design and kowhaiwhai forms."



"He has sensed in the game of tennis a modern echo of the ancient duel, with the racket as sword, sneakers as ceremonial armour and players as Age-of-Leisure warriors. As he zooms in on details - nets, rackets, balls - the images become denser, action-packed, almost jewelled. With their Aztec network of lines flexing and surging against each other, they’re all push and pulse. No colour is darker, richer - midnight indigoes, pet greens, walnut browns - and each zone of it is raked with a palette knife to produce crackling, live-wire edges ( in the 80’s, line led his art; in the 90’s, colour starts to call the shots).

Harnessing huge energies within the court of each canvas, Trusttum conveys the feel of the game, not its off-court appearance. They’re mosaics of shards and splinters, these paintings, packed with boomerang arabesques abd whiplash lines, yielding momentary glimpses of the hurtling green orb. It is tennis as seen not by the spectators but by the players - or maybe by the ball. You’re immersed in the grunting effort and physical rush, lobbed up above for a ball’s -eye view, then plummeted back down into the welter. Helluva trip."


"Philip Trusttum’s latest paintings of tennis encounters positively vibrates, like the man himself. Large canvasses pieced together, with a dividing strip as a means of separating opponents, or games against himself, they are joyfully pugnacious and spry. Trusttum has been involved with tennis for years, and whatever he is involved with works into his art."

"In these works he’s amplified the colours from cans of tennis balls, and by squeezing paint directly out of the tubes, sometimes an imprecise exercise, and orchestrating it with other implements, he has created lively and endlessly eventful games on canvas."

                                                                                                                                                  Katy Corner, 1996


"What is obvious is that talent combined with continuous practice produces success. We participate, as observers, in the processes by which the artist’s thinking eye utilises the mechanics of painting - the intensity of colour harmonies and complementaries, manipulation of spatial tensions, balancing of shapes and planes, perspectival flatness and recession into depth, and the dissemination of all this into fragmentation.

Trusttum’s dramatic orchestration necessitates careful reading and, as a consequence, rewards with aesthetic pleasure. Surveying the paintings in this series. Each composition is enhanced by the dramatic use of black and white as the tennis net, dividing the picture plane, and as borders, inscribed in loose, open patterns akin to Grecian, Aztec, Ashanti or Polynesian ethnic designs.

The genesis in painting for the integration of familiar and foreign imagery lies in impressionism ( the Japanese influence), but particularly reminiscent in this case of Picasso’s proto-cubist painting "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon", which drew upon Western art tradition and African artifacts while conveying a politically provocative inference.

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Trusttum said that in his Tennis Series he created an orchestration of shapes and colours. Critics praised the works.

"As always with Trusttum, the colour is consistently amazing. He can combine colours in ways that are totally beyond the conception of ordinary mortals, including most artists. The combinations are always both original and right."

T J McNamara, 1999


"These paintings work so well not because they represent tennis, but because the shapes are inventive, bold and forceful, full of angular energy, and the colour is exceptional beyond any power of printing to reproduce accurately.

The areas of colour have the bold shapes of billboard advertising but are not blatantly bright. They are often dull but the combinations so unexpected, so immaculately right, so powerful in a tough, almost grubby way that the paintings have a highly individual quality that is uniquely Trusttum."

                                                                                                          T.J.McNamara, 1999