Tom Phillips, A Humument, Royal Academy of Arts.

Tom Phillips 1I wander around the RA and I come across a room filled with pages from a book used as drawing paper and immediately I snort with derision.  I look closer and ascertain that yes, they have word bubbles in the pictures and I am immediately even more annoyed.  ‘This has been done before, its just been copied’ and I turn on my heels and walk away.Tom Phillips 2

But the pictures haunt me, they won’t leave my subconscious alone.  In my mind I question the integrity of the RA, why would they display work that has been copied?  And the words in bubbles haunt me, haunt me, haunt me.Tom Phillips 3

A memory surfaces, I can’t quite see it, but its there, I’m young, 10 or 11,  my chubby fingers are trying to control a very blunt HB pencil as I press deeply into the page scouring the landscape as I encircle a word. Its hot and dusty and bright and then I am back, in the terrapin we used as a classroom for two years, always so hot in the summer.

Tom Phillips 4And then I see it, an animated Mr Davies, talking and talking and talking about an art exhibition he had been to see.  He shows us some of the work, I don’t remember whether it was a postcard or magazine or book, but I look at it, and I love it.  And I copy it with my little chubby fingers and my blunt HB pencil and colour in with the schools powdery poster paints.  And he tells us about how we too could make our own book by doing a page a day.  And I love the idea and sometimes I do a page, but the idea is lost as is the way with childhood and the busyness of growing and learning.  But I never forget because I loved it so and often think about the word bubbles and the pictures, in that terrapin with the smell of the hot dust and bright sunshine.

And so I go back to the RA to look at the work properly and its familiar and then it hits me; This is the artist that Mr Davies was talking about.  This is the artist that I copied with my little chubby fingers and my blunt HB pencil, aged 10 or 11, in a hot dusty terrapin some 39 years ago. Tom Phillips 5

I buy the book, I am quite giddy and I love it so – all over again.

That is the work of a good teacher to inspire such recall after nearly 40 years.

And because they are just so much fun, I’ll share a couple with you. – buy the book, its amazing.

 

 

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