Artist biography

English painter, printmaker, illustrator and composer. He studied English literature, and art at Camberwell School of Art from 1961 to 1963. His early paintings established an eclectic approach to diverse styles and languages of picturemaking influenced by Pop art. In paintings such as Benches (1970–71; London, Tate), however, he used postcards as source material as a means of relating the processes of painting to those of four-colour commercial printing, examining the imagery not for its implications about consumer culture but in support of themes of human mortality. This interest in process, chance, language and the cumulative effects of multiple reworkings soon led him to prints and books. A Humument (London, 1980), which he began publishing in fragmentary versions as early as 1966, was adapted from a minor Victorian novel, isolated phrases or parts of words were picked out, in a variation of the cut-up technique of the novelist William S. Burroughs and then combined with painted and collage elements to form a new verbal and visual narrative by turns melancholic and humorous.

Phillips applied his characteristic methods to numerous forms including an experimental opera, Irma (1970), which combined visual, verbal and musical elements; he also composed scores for film, radio and theatre. His translation of Dante's Inferno, accompanied by his own illustrations, was published both as a limited-edition portfolio of screenprints and in smaller format as a book (London, 1985). He applied his literary interests and analytical clarity to his own work, producing the most informative accounts of his own development.

s College, Oxford, from 1957 to 1960 and art at Camberwell School of Art from 1961 to 1963. His early paintings established an eclectic approach to diverse styles and languages of picturemaking influenced by Pop art. In paintings such as Benches (1970–71; London, Tate), however, he used postcards as source material as a means of relating the processes of painting to those of four-colour commercial printing, examining the imagery not for its implications about consumer culture but in support of themes of human mortality. This interest in process, chance, language and the cumulative effects of multiple reworkings soon led him to prints and books. A Humument (London, 1980), which he began publishing in fragmentary versions as early as 1966, was adapted from a minor Victorian novel, isolated phrases or parts of words were picked out, in a variation of the cut-up technique of the novelist William S. Burroughs and then combined with painted and collage elements to form a new verbal and visual narrative by turns melancholic and humorous.

Phillips applied his characteristic methods to numerous forms including an experimental opera, Irma (1970), which combined visual, verbal and musical elements; he also composed scores for film, radio and theatre. His translation of Dante's Inferno, accompanied by his own illustrations, was published both as a limited edition portfolio of screenprints and in smaller format as a book (London, 1985). He applied his literary interests and analytical clarity to his own work, producing the most informative accounts of his own development.

Bibliography
Tom Phillips (exh. cat. by J. Russell, London, Marlborough F.A., 1973)
R. C. Kenedy: ‘Tom Phillips; or, Empiricism through an English Painter's Eyes', A. Int., xiv/6 (1975), pp. 13–20, 106–7
Tom Phillips (exh. cat. by R. Morphet, London, Angela Flowers Gal., 1975)
Tom Phillips: Oeuvre gravé (exh. cat. by J.-Y. Bosseur, D. Bindman and T. Phillips, London, Brit. Council, 1979)

KENNETH G. HAY

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