22 maart 2018

Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips in his studio, London,

The kitchen provides storage for Phillips’s collection of 100,000 postcards, arranged floor to ceiling in 150 plastic files. Walls are covered in prints and sculpture: Indian, Oceanic, his own. Shelves are crammed with tiny African goldweights (a fraction of his collection), box files, coffee, Lemsip, beard trimmer, fruitcake, tins of soup and bottles of red wine. He eats out a lot.

The ‘breakfast table’ is obscured by toppling heaps of reading material – the New York Review of Books, New Scientist, a Lee Child thriller – plus sketchbooks, pots stuffed with pens, scalpels and brushes, old coffee cups, the remains of two boiled eggs and many crumbs. If you clear a space – less easy than it sounds – you see the table is a glass-lidded display case, with more African goldweights visible beneath.
The first floor has a large painting studio. A smaller, adjacent room (pictured above) overlooks the jungle-like garden. An ardent recycler, Phillips has turned a variety of objects, from a child’s sledge to tangerine peel, into art. A truncated wooden cross, exactly as he found it in the street, is festooned with “quasi offerings, like a sort of fetish”. A still-life from Phillips’s student days and a recent pastel hang either side of the window.

He says this east-facing studio is “light and warm in the mornings. I tend to do sculpture, collage or special projects here.” These include designing coins for the Royal Mint, including commemorations of Benjamin Britten and the 2012 Olympics, with a Shakespeare one planned. His current preoccupation is with the mosaic ceiling for the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs in Westminster Cathedral, reaching completion this year. Soon the black, vaulted ceiling will be bejewelled with 40 mosaic ‘flames’, each bearing a martyr’s name. Some are already installed.

The drawings for the ‘flames’ are visible on Phillips’s desk, amid Humument fragments, books, post, iPad, more coffee cups, more crumbs. Does he ever dream of a clean white space? No, and yes: he has a purpose-built studio nearby, designed by Eric Parry RA. “Like many artists in the 1980s, I was seduced by pictures of New York lofts, and I went in with Antony Gormley, then a near neighbour.” But does Phillips use this airy haven? “Yes. It’s a perfect place for storing pictures and playing ping pong…”
(bron: The Royal Academy of Arts, foto: David Vintiner, tekst: Fiona Maddocks)

> Tom Phillips

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