Philip Clairmont produced some of the most instantly-recognisable paintings to come out of 1970s New Zealand. Along with Allen Maddox and Tony Fomison, Clairmont was part of a trend towards intensely personal neo-expressionist painting in New Zealand, building on the early works of Colin McCahon but eschewing his regionalism in favour of an approach that emphasised a quasi-Romanticist view of the artist as an individualist, living outside of society.
Clairmont studied at the Canterbury School of Fine Arts under the modernist painter Rudy Gopas, graduating in 1970. Although he was born in Nelson and educated in Christchurch, Clairmont moved to Auckland after his graduation, where he continued to paint and exhibit his work. He was quickly recognised as a unique voice in the New Zealand art scene, where his distorted, visionary forms and almost psychedelic use of colour set him apart from his peers.
Like Tony Fomison, Clairmont lived a bohemian lifestyle, to the extent that his rejection of middle-class society and values almost became a part of his artistic practice.
Clairmont died tragically young, in 1984, at the age of 34. However, over his short career he produced a large body of paintings and drawings that capture his unique vision and unconventional approach to art and life. Significant collections of his work are held in the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki and the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.