Catalogue entry

Peter Phillips b. 1939
T01159 RANDOM ILLUSION NO. 4 1968
Inscribed on reverse ‘Peter Phillips 1969 The Random Illusion III’, with duplicate inscriptions, one on stretcher bar.
Acrylic, tempera and silkscreen ink on canvas, and acrylic lacquer on wood, 78⅜×133¾ (200×340).
Purchased from the artist through Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich (Grant-in-Aid) 1969.
Exh: Information, Kunsthalle, Basle, June–July 1969, and Karlsruhe, August–September 1969 (15); Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich, October–November 1969 (no catalogue numbers, repr. on invitation card).

The inscription and date on the reverse were made in error.

The artist told the compiler (conversation, 18 June 1970) that all his paintings since ‘AutoKustoMotive’ 1964 (coll: Peter Stuyvesant Foundation) were part of a continuum concerned with the twin themes of random selection of pre-selected imagery and contrasted types of illusionism. For the seven paintings so far in the ‘Random Illusion’ series, Phillips designated several categories of image each of which was then represented within each picture by an image selected, within its category, at random. He therefore considers the seven ‘Random Illusion’ paintings, which differ strikingly in appearance though not in general organisation, as in one sense the same painting. Phillips is currently developing the possibilities of random selection (and simultaneous projection through ten projectors) of images accumulated in an image bank.

The band of stripes which wraps irregularly around the top and right sides of T01159 is painted on a separate (wood) support both for ease of dismantling and transportation, and because canvas is an unsatisfactory support for acrylic lacquer (an automobile paint). The artist stated that the band is intended to make an enclosure, in two contradictory and alternating senses—enclosure, within a defining perimeter, of the images seen in illusionistic space, and enclosure of the canvas as an object inserted into a surround. Enclosure of both types has been a feature of his work for many years, individual images being presented on separate canvases in some paintings. Finally, the band of stripes operates in its own right as a yet further type of graphic illusion.

All the images in T01159 are transposed from illustrations or reproduction in books or magazines. The artist emphasised that the second-hand nature of the resulting marks, in which textures and colour-values have become perceptibly or subtly transmuted, is an essential element in his conception. The birds in T01159 are the male and female Red-shouldered Hawk, after Audubon (derived immediately from a reproduction in The Birds of America, New York 1965). The motor engine is a B.M.W. V.8, drawn originally by Max Miller for Autocar, and transposed from H Hutton, Schnelle Motoren Seziert und Frisiert, Berlin 1966. Both the cubes and the rings were transposed from magazines, probably Scientific American, where their captions described the cubes as ‘Inclusion Compounds. Canal complexes formed when the host is a crystal lattice having tubular cavities’, and the rings as ‘Expansion of a vortex ring. The result of a force acting at right angles to the plane of the ring’.

A fairly complete drawing on paper for T01159 exists.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970