A monk in the mountains

3 by Jane mann 3

In the Aspres hills, overlooking the Tet Valley is the studio of a most unusual artist.
Phil Monk moved to St Michel de Llotes 8 years ago. The first few years were spent renovating the ruined and waterless Catalan Mas with which he had fallen in love at the end of the last century. On his dry and arid land there is now a large swimming pool, the start of a Mediterranean garden, and a large studio. Inspired by his surroundings he makes large cactus sculptures out of seasoned beech wood. Their spikes are of wire or nails. They can vary in size, leaves added or subtracted depending on the size of the garden, patio or terrace.
He is a manic swimmer. Ploughing up and down his pool, submersible headphones glued to his ears, he dreams up images of swimmers, sculptures of swimmers, floating figures of swimmers. His dreams become large paintings, sculptures and mobiles, full of movement, light and colour.
In England he loved to grow vegetables. Here water is far too precious to allow more than the occasional tomato plant to flourish amongst the geraniums. His vegetables become detailed and beautiful drawings.
He trained originally as a sculptor and for many years taught art in London and Dorset. Drained by teaching he took to fashion photography, working out of his highly successful studio in the Kings Road. Back to teaching, this time in the form of Photographic courses. For the last few years before moving to France, he specialised in extremely original portraiture.
Now, he walks the hills, drawing inspiration from the rugged countryside for new drawings and sculptures. He is beginning to put his particular blend of gardening and art experience to good use helping and designing drought resistant gardens on commission.
His studio can be visited by appointment ( 04 6884 7027). He is a charismatic and fascinating man to meet and even the drive there is, in itself, yet another unique P O experience.

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