A feast for artistic bookworms - Tom Phillips's a Humument and the creation of art riddled with literature

Richmond, C. (2022) A feast for artistic bookworms - Tom Phillips's a Humument and the creation of art riddled with literature. Undergraduate theses, University of Chichester.

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For the purposes of this essay I am using the definition of a bookworm from the Encyclopaedia Britannica online: Bookworm, any insect (e.g., moths, beetles) whose larval (or adult) forms injure books by gnawing the binding and piercing the page with small holes. No single species may properly be called a bookworm because a large number of insects feed upon dry, starchy material or paper and may damage books. (Britannica.com). Before moving on to explore how an art object can be created from a close engagement with literature I am starting my investigation of those visual artists who “feed upon dry, starchy material” and “may damage books” with an example of the art of the insect (see image 1). As they eat their way through books creating visually intriguing trails of missing words, it seems that bookworms have internalised Richard Serra’s “verblist”, adding eat and digest to the list and taking “actions to relate to oneself, material, place and process” (Serra, 1967). Tom Phillips RA, a selfconfessed human bookworm, is the subject of this essay about the art that arises from an intense relationship with literature. Born in 1937 Tom Phillips is a multifaceted artist, perhaps best known for his portraiture and the subject of a solo show at the National Portrait Gallery in 1989, who was admitted to the Royal Academy in 1984. (He has published an artist’s book, called Merry Meeting, of the agendas he doodled on during his time as a committee chairman at the RA (see image 2)). He is also a composer, musician (with the Cornelius Cardew Scratch Orchestra), opera 2 librettist and set designer, concrete poet, sculptor, tapestry designer, installation artist, collector of postcards (a selection of his collection of 50,000 postcards formed the exhibition We Are The People at the National Portrait Gallery in 2004), art teacher (his most notable student being Brian Eno at the Ipswich School of Art), curator, critic, writer and, in 2017, Booker prize judge. This isn’t a complete list of Phillips’s achievements. Along the way he has created a number of alter-egos, Bill Hurrell being one, and the work of these known and unknown alter-egos is not included in this essay. Phillips is a voracious artist, a reverse bookworm who consumes books to produce art in the form of books and consumes art to create books.

Publication Type: Theses (Undergraduate)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Literature, art, Barschkirtseff, books
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR > N61 Theory. Philosophy. Aesthetics of the arts
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Academic Areas > Department of Creative Industries > Fine Art
Student Research > Undergraduate
Depositing User: Janet Carter
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2022 11:51
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2022 11:51
URI: https://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/6605

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