Artist Profile: Heather Phillipson

1 January 2019

Heather Welsh, Marketing Officer for the Arts Council Collection, explores the work of Heather Phillipson, whose work TRUE TO SIZE shows as part of Too Cute! Sweet is about to get Sinister, an Arts Council Collection National Partners Exhibition curated by Rachel Maclean.

Working across video, sculpture, drawing, music, text and live events, artist Heather Phillipson’s immersive works are full of cultural references, emotional responses revealing an intimate dialogue with the materials she uses.

Her commission for the Arts Council Collection’s 70th anniversary, TRUE TO SIZE, is a suite made of multiple video and audio refrains, constructed within a series of sculptural vignettes. Visually, it includes oversized, printed emojis and human scale soft toys which Phillipson describes as “kind of surrogate, genderless beings, which for me also has to do with care, human-animal relations and of course fantasy, all of which are recurring themes within my work”.

As well as these themes, Phillipson also heavily references the language of the Internet and indeed advertising. She explains; “I’ve called the commission TRUE TO SIZE, a slogan which is of course taken from advertising or product packaging, because it’s really subjecting scale, as an objective fact as both a physical and virtual property, by which I mean, emotions as much as perceived dimensions, to various kinds of pressures.” Both the work’s visual register and its materials are sourced from the Internet.



She has also spoken about the challenging nature of the work as a commission: “There is something qualitatively different, I think, about knowing that the work will go into a collection, especially one as important as the Arts Council Collection. Perhaps that difference has to do with finitude, conservation, preservation, commitment, the weight of history, a lot of stuff actually which my work, which is made out of these very low-grade demotic, modifiable materials, is in contention. So it’s really interesting and challenging for me to place the work in advance of its existence, in that context.”


A combination of image, noise, language and objects, TRUE TO SIZE is multi-layered and thought-provoking, merging the everyday language of the internet with ideas of fabrication, fantasy, emotion and care.

One of the seven vignettes, or ‘scenes’ from the work shows as part of Too Cute! Sweet is about to get Sinister. Curated by artist Rachel Maclean, the exhibition shows at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until May 2019 and is the final exhibition for Birmingham Museums Trust as part of the National Partners Programme 2016-19.


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.