Peter Phillips The Entertainment Machine 1961

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Artwork details

Artist
Title
The Entertainment Machine
Date 1961
Medium Oil paint on canvas on wood
Dimensions Support: 1829 x 1829 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1976
Reference
T02025
Not on display

Catalogue entry

T02025 THE ENTERTAINMENT MACHINE 1961

Not inscribed
Oil on canvas and painted wood, 72×72 (183×183)
Purchased from the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation Ltd. (Publications Department Funds) 1975
Coll: Purchased by the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation Ltd. 1964
Exh: Young Contemporaries, R.B.A. Galleries, February 1962 (120); The New Generation, Whitechapel Art Gallery, March 1964 (31); Plymouth Museum Area 1967; Recent British Painting: Peter Stuyvesant Foundation Collection, Tate Gallery, November–December 1967 (96)

This catalogue entry is based on a letter (14 July 1976) and a conversation (4 May 1976) with Peter Phillips and has been approved by him.

Peter Phillips told the compiler (4 May 1976) that T02025 was painted in the spring of 1961 at the artist's studio, 58 Holland Park Road, London W.14. At this time he was a student at the Royal College of Art where he was particularly friendly with Ron Kitaj, David Hockney, Allen Jones and Derek Boshier; they, like him had all started at the Royal College in October 1959, were painting in the same studio area and took coffee together.

Phillips described his earlier paintings at the Royal College as being ‘loosely painted abstract expressionist influenced’ all of which he destroyed. His paintings then became tighter, but still abstract. In 1960 they were even tighter and based on game boards as compositional devices. Phillips was interested in Victorian Games such as ‘Elephant and Castle’ and had various books on the subject.

T02025 has a game board format but not a grid; some are empty and others are of complex activity. Phillips felt the need to make contact with the spectator. He aimed to paint impersonally without style or subject. His first work of this type was ‘Purple Flag’ 1960 (Private Collection, Switzerland), a Union Jack on a purple ground. In 1961 Phillips executed 6 or 7 paintings using as sources of imagery books and magazines in which reality was transformed by the painted image.

Phillips says his attitude to painting has not changed considerably since 1960. In T02025 he used imagery which reflected his interests at the time to make a painting. Sources included images of old machine parts, e.g. that at the bottom right of the picture is that of a pistol and a diagram of bullet sizes; at the top is a piano keyboard and a monster head; in the middle left are small targets.

Phillips sees T02025 as reflecting a feeling of how he felt at the time, one relating vaguely to surrealism, without narrative or reference to any specific theme.

The painted wooden strips around the painted canvas are part of the work, not of the frame.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

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