Philip Ciolina



In the Stillness of Time

Philip Ciolina’s aptly autumnal exhibition of rose studies, ‘In the Stillness of Time’ is inspired by TS Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton and documents the flower from bud to bare and petal-less, reminding us of the seasons and cycle of life.

A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Ciolina has always worked on a small scale, creating an intimacy between subject and viewer and this helps contribute to the sense of isolation and melancholy present in works such as Autumn Rose, conveying nature’s fragility and decay.

Using mixed media and transparent layers of paper, reminiscent of petals themselves, his light touch is just about discernible, as if not wishing to interfere with time’s inevitable toll but merely to document it. Vases and window sills, hints of man’s hand of death for nature, ominously loom in pale muted shadows while also serving to remind us of the joy flora and fauna provides and how we celebrate it. This complex dichotomy of life and death is exemplified in the juxtapositions between titles such as Room at Dusk and Night Rose with the more sprightly Morning Light and Into the First World. ‘In the Stillness of Time’ is a visual poetics of mortality.

Nicola McCartney 'Galleries' Magazine


The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition

‘Delicate, exquisite, evanescent, suggestive: these words are brought to mind by Ciolina's painting of a white rose. It almost isn't there at all. The continuous drawing, redrawing and layering of translucent white on white and off-whites creates an almost ghostly image. Ciolina explains: "With a rose, there is a mysterious and unpredictable moment when it is fully open and has nothing more to reveal. The layers are unfurled. There is a stillness and silence before the inevitability of collapse and decay. This rose did not belong to those of early summer, but was discovered late in the year, a survivor on a bush next to a neglected building." Vintage (part of Random House) knew what it wanted, too. The painting is going straight onto the cover of a collection of Robert Frost's poems.’

Frank Whitford, Sunday Times, Culture


‘Choosing from the magnificent array of talent on display was gruelling but I had always in my mind the need to marry my selection with the evocative work of Robert Frost. Frost was an amazing poet who we had decided could be a really interesting commission for the winner of this part of the competition. Philip Ciolina’s work has a poignancy, profundity and powerful sense of place and I wanted to find an artist that could capture some of this to adorn the book cover.

I searched through so much fine work but finally managed to hone it down to just a few. The decision then was relatively straightforward. Philip’s artwork stood out as powerful and atmospheric with a strong command of the watercolour medium. He expertly uses brush and colour to create a mood and sense of place.’

Suzanne Dean, Creative Director, Random House / Vintage Classics

Philip Ciolina, In the Stillness of Time
In the Stillness of Time , 36 x 24 cms

Philip Ciolina, The White Rose
The White Rose, 37 x 23 cms