You may have seen Phlegm’s murals in and around Sheffield or other cities in the UK (or Norway, Canada, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, USA, Belgium, Poland, Italy, Slovakia, Spain or Australia!) This time, it is the Welsh artist’s more intimate work which makes up Phlegm: Pandemic Diary, displayed at Millennium Gallery.
Phlegm’s recognisable style consists of mostly monochrome drawings on different scales, from journal- to wall-sized. Otherworldly creatures cover their heads with blankets made from cities, castle turrets hide all kinds of curiosities on legs and long-limbed figures contort themselves to fit in doorways. While his mural work is well known worldwide, Pandemic Diary showcases a different, more personal side to his oeuvre.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Phlegm began to document the new normal of daily life through pen and ink drawings. This resulted in 67 pieces which comment on the reality of the period of isolation combined with the artist’s imaginary world of creatures and machines.
The challenging circumstances provided a wide range of references for Phlegm while our collective experience of it makes the drawings immediately relatable. The fantasy world they’re set in adds both comedy and darkness to the compositions.
Phlegm is no longer based in Sheffield but he describes the city as the place where he found his artistic voice which to him will always remain very special. He began his creative career with comics which then grew to be realised as murals, many of which adorn Sheffield’s buildings. In 2019, Phlegm’s imaginings were translated into an immersive exhibition: Mausoleum of the Giants which was situated in an old factory and attracted over 12,000 visitors. The drawings on display at Pandemic Diary are complemented by a number of works from Mausoleum of the Giants which have subsequently joined the city’s Visual Art collection.
Intimate yet unexpected, the beauty of this body of work is that you’re guaranteed to find something both relatable and surprising in Phlegm’s Pandemic Diary.