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Where Are They Now?

Thirty Images by Tom Phillips with Interpretations by Heather McHugh and Treatments by Tom Phillips

Publisher: Talfourd Press, London and Richard Minsky, New York
1990 edition of 47

ISBN no 0-937258-01-6

Notes on this work

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Where Are They Now?

This book is based on Tom Phillips' 1988 collage work 'The Class of 47', which was exhibited in London at the National Portrait Gallery.

Tom Phillips sent copies of the 31 images to American poet Heather McHugh, who wrote poems about them. Tom then took these poems and transformed them by painting out some of the words. His new text sometimes reaffirms and other times contradicts the poet's interpretation of the pictures. Each page of handmade paper contains the image, expanded and revised both by hand and computer, and hand painted in watercolour following the artist's prototype. The poem is set in 14 pt. Bookman Light Italic,and the manipulated text appears as a footnote, also hand coloured. This edition is published jointly by The Talfourd Press in London and Richard Minsky in New York, and is limited to an edition de tete of 10 copies numbered I-X and 47 copies numbered 1-47. 1990.

Copy No I Edition de tete in leather binding designed by Minsky and Phillips, with complete set of additional signed prints of pages handcoloured by Phillips. Copies No II-X. As above, with three additional signed prints of pages handcoloured by Phillips. Copies No. 1-47. In cloth binding designed by Minsky and Phillips.

This copy of Where Are They Now? (The Class of Forty-Seven) was printed on Richard de Bas handmade paper with a Canon BJ-130 inkjet printer. The images and treatments were painted by hand in watercolours. The edition is limited to forty-seven copies bound in cloth, numbered 1-47, and an edition de tete of ten copies I-X, bound in leather with three additional pages coloured by Tom Phillips, containing his notes to the colourist.

The Portrait Works (1989),  p. 14-15.

No litany will ever stick as fast as the class register at primary school, those thirty names of serried figures in a gaslit room, who, benched together like tiny galley-slaves on a five year odyssey, will forever haunt each other's dreams. They provide us with our first typology (so little needing later extension) of bully, hero, creep, flirt, swot, saint and belle dame sans merci. A teacher could inflect this list with cunning insinuation: I used to await my own name to find out what the score was (as one can tell from readers of football results, before they get to the goals, whether a team has triumphed or been crushed or has squeezed a draw) waiting to hear if it was to be thrown away like a hiccup, indicating that I was for the while a safe cypher, or leaned upon with some dangerous almost decodable emphasis (meaning, watch out).

Comic capital has often been made of such a recital, most recently in a sinister review sketch by Rowan Atkinson. More notably one remembers Sir Michael Redgrave's hypnotic readings from Beachcomber's List of Huntingdonshire Cabmen and Giles Cooper's radio play Unman Wittering and Zygo... the corresponding names in my own class were Whiting, Whittlesea and Zorn. Oh God!, wrote Swift, How I remember names!

The list of faces is not so ordered. Though from many the labels of name have peeled off with time, they will as images bubble up unbidden from the depths of sleep, or will suddenly be brought to mind when a head turns in a bus queue or crush bar (them? not them?). Just once or twice the terrible truth of mortality is presented in a face whose new, augmented, lineaments startle, when encountered all at once without that gently gradual breaking of news one gets from one's own day by day mirrored self. Can that be Flinchecombe there whose features have been pumped up to fill a vast pneumatic head from the top of which the hair has rushed away without so much as a farewell wave? Yes it can, for he is saying to himself... I'm sure I know that fat and grizzled fellow shambling along there... yes... it's Phillips... never did think he'd come to much.

As I played with scraps of collage for Curriculum Vitae IV, whose border is a forest of faces, the conjunction of random fragments of heads from various printed sources consistently threw up such darkly half-recognised physiognomies. To exorcise them, to lay their ghosts somehow (on paper at least) I made face-fetishes of each of the thirty... Pete Morris... yes... Fred Emmett, Daphne Blackwood, yes... Sylvia Daniels, yes... and, ah yes, Isabel... one by one (and one of them myself) fixed by paste and hustled out into the daylight of art. Where are they now? Now in part, here.

It seemed appropriate only to use pieces of the Boy's Own or the Girl's Own Paper (my constant Human Documents of engraved vocabulary) whose hatchings and cross-hatchings in pre-1900 copies I got to know in those same early years of childhood from bound sets collected for war-salvage. Allen, Arkwright, Atwell, Beard, Bloomfield, Bussey, Callow... let us rest here in this rare reunion.