Ciara Phillips works mainly in printmaking and her approach is expansive and experimental. Her interest lies in both the physical processes involved in printing and the capacity to explore, test and develop ideas through it. Printing requires time, space and sometimes collaboration with others, which for Phillips, distinguishes it from the directness of drawing an image straight onto a page. Printing has also been linked with political and social activism – a tool to call for action. Phillips brings all these connections into play in her art, whether she is working alone or with others.
Phillips uses screen-printing in which ink is pulled over and pushed through mesh in order to transfer an image onto paper or fabric. She exploits the opportunities offered by this method, layering colour with images and working on both small and large scales. A Lot Of Things Put Together (2013) is a large hanging piece made of five overlapping sheets of printed cotton. Abstract symbols and blocks of colour are combined with black-and-white photographs of figures. This artwork provided a starting point for an extensive work on paper, Things Put Together (2013). In both of these, Phillips uses repetition to produce visual echoes across the fabric or paper. The rhythmic aspect of these compositions is playful, but it also acts to co-ordinate the individual images into a whole, new statement. The titles of the works are drawn from the educator and activist Sister Corita Kent (1918–1986), an American artist whose use of art as an instrument for education and inspiration has been important to Phillips. The idea of ‘things put together’ not only points to the artist’s enjoyment of collage, but is a more general comment about making art.
Phillips has also developed her thinking through projects dealing with collective making. Her Workshop (2010–ongoing), held at The Showroom, London in 2013, created a studio within the gallery where she made prints every day, often working experimentally with community groups and other artists and designers. Phillips’s project transformed the gallery into a place for investigation, social action, discussion and debate.