Tom Phillips’ A Humument is one of those creative endeavours that manages to hold the attention of even the most indifferent of gallery-goers. Borne out of a chance encounter in a second-hand shop in South London, a threepenny book the artist bought turned into a 50-year work in progress. Since 1966 he has reworked pages from W. H. Mallock’s 1892 novel A Human Document with painting, collage and cut-up techniques, creating over 1000 texts and poems from fragments of the original pages.
Phillips has remade each and every page of the book as an artwork, giving segments of text a second lease of life by intricately using gouache and watercolour and collage to obscure unwanted words and highlight others. Some of these were shown en masse at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition in London this year to hugely impressive effect, and 100 pages have been brought together at Flowers Gallery New York for the largest exhibition of the project in the city so far. When shown in any considerable quantity like this, you can’t help but appreciate the project’s visible commitment.
Pages From A Humument closes at Flowers Gallery New York on August 29.