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About this blog


Why a blog? Because I am an artist who writes. My visual art takes damaged photos, drawings, and short pieces of writing, to turn them into books, prints and installations that relate to moments of personal narrative. Some of that is my own personal narrative, based on my childhood in an English mining town. Some of the work is inspired by the personal narrative of others, such as my wife's grandfather, a Korean missionary who left an archive of 1920s Kodak photos and letters. I also love art and writing about other people's art, so this blog is an expression of that.

I chose the title 'Praeterita' in homage to John Ruskin's book. Ruskin was an artist and a writer on art who wrote passionately in defense of J.M.W. Turner, and then the Pre-Raphaelite painters such as John Everett Millais, at moments when none of these painters was fashionable. Ruskin was a complicated man, and 'Praeterita', written towards the end of his life, reflects this: not quite an autobiography, not quite a manifesto, it looks back on his past and tries to document the significant experiences that produced his personality.

So this blog documents my own artistic personality through the things that interest me: the past, my own artistic processes, word and image, and the art of my contemporaries, living and dead.

About me


I was born in a mining town in the north of England. My father was a soldier in the British army, who was killed on active duty when I was five. My mother, brother and I then moved into my grandparents' house. He was still a working miner, and we all lived in a house with no bathroom and just one tap. Bath night was once a week, and we all had to take turns filling and emptying a tin bath tub in front of a coal fire.

Education saved me. I was accepted to Cambridge, where I got a degree in English. I loved reading and studying books, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I did, however, get to hang out with people like Tilda Swinton.

After I graduated, I wrote two novels, which were taken up by a literary agent in London. One of the books came close to being published, but in the end it didn't happen. I'm telling you this not merely to admit my failure, but to show that I have a dark past that involves an over-use of words. It was after my novels were returned that I decided to go to art college.

I got an MA in Fine Art from Winchester College of Art, which is about 70 miles south-west of London. Part of that time required studying in Barcelona, which is one of the greatest cities on earth. I got to have studio visits with artists such as Richard Wentworth, John Walker, and I also talked to Christian Boltanski. Oh, and I once saw Dennis Hopper at an opening on Las Ramblas (but was too intimidated to speak to him).

I've lived in Paris, Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Madrid, London, but now I call Chicago home. I am part of the adjunct faculty at Columbia College Chicago, where I teach a specialty class in the Fiction Writing department that uses the sketchbook and drawing to further the writing process. I am also married to a writer, so the entwining of the word and the image continues in and out of the studio. To contact me, send an email to philipanthonyhartigan@gmail.com.

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