Tom Phillips maintains an interest in letterforms and language. Some of his earliest works prove that words can be pictures. For those 1960s paintings, Phillips used packers’ stencils. Years later, inspired by a trip to Japan, he switched to calligraphy. Suave rejoinder to the blocky stenciled series, The Calligrapher Replies I is painted out in elegantly entangled longhand arabesques.
The painting invites and resists interpretation. Viewers can pick out a word here, a phrase there. But the artist never intended that anyone decipher what he calls his “stream-of-consciousness” text. He has intentionally entrapped the content within the written maze, making illegible language a style. His work testifies to both the difficulty of communication and the power of art to deepen understanding.
Tags: contemporary, line, shape, letters, writing