Studio blog

News and updates about Tom Phillips, posted by the artist himself

Tom Phillips - July 2012
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 14:50 Written by Tom Phillips

Einstein and Mallarmé Throw Dice

Art has long been happily married to uncertainty. Science, however, has only recently (and somewhat reluctantly) become its suitor. It is now almost a hundred years since Einstein said that 'God does not throw dice' (der Alte nicht würfelt were his actual words). I suspect that what he meant was that wherever randomness and indeterminacy seem to crop up we have merely failed as yet to find the certainties that must lurk beneath the aleatoric disguise.

Mallarmé's formula, in his famous poem of 1897 Un Coup de Dés, is a more subtle evocation of what I think of as Quantum Poetics. By somehow squaring the dice throw ad infinitum (Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hazard) he returns to a neat zero.

Translating Mallarmé's opening statement 'A throw of dice will never do away with chance' I made a rearrangement of its words paraphrase Einstein; 'Away with chance. A throw of dice will never do'. Thus in essence (and within a square) they disagree to agree, leaving the equation in a state of suspended resolution.

Einstein and Mallarme Throw Dice

Einstein & Mallarmé Throw Dice, watercolour, h25.5cm x w25.5cm, 2012

The tweet that advertised this blog entry sums it up:-

When Mallarmé meets Einstein dice are rolled
and physics learns what poetry foretold.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012 16:59 Written by Tom Phillips

20 Sites/Obart

as trailered on Twitter...

Once more down these mean streets a man must go
(John Walters and Jake Auerbach in tow).

20 Sites is always its own adventure, a curate's egg of surprises, disappointments, frustrations and glee. This very weathery year it occupied a patchwork of sessions on adjacent days, partly to dodge rain, partly to ease knees and partly to fit in with my two companions, Jake Auerbach filming and John Walters chronicling (the beginnings of an entourage?)

In every year there is some singular redemptive moment that renews my faith in the crazy scheme so hastily concocted forty years ago. This year's epiphany was one for the age of Twitter and tweet. Reaching the somewhat glum site 15, a personless scene of council spoilage slowly re-neatening itself, we saw in a facing window a crisp notice saying '#obart'. Could this be a distant echo, such as those heard in ancient Arcady, of the large signboard saying OBART that had not been in evidence for well over thirty years and which had given 20 Sites its original name? Electronic contact provided an enigmatic addendum 'you have arrived'.

We knocked on the door and Mrs Obart emerged regretting her husband's having missed the magic assignation.

This simple gesture was as touching as if the art school had put up a banner saying 'Welcome Back Tom'. I was moved. The project's title has now been reinstated. In some special sense I had arrived: thank you Mr & Mrs Phil Wilce.


 Obart 1973

Obart 2012

obart_hashtag Photograph: John Walters

Friday, 13 July 2012 13:52 Written by Tom Phillips

This Sporting Life

Surprisingly my design of an Olympic coin (see blog Nov 2011) elicited no tickets from St. Sebastian & Co. But sport in this season of Murray worry is not to be denied and, through the kind agency of Patrick Hughes (a frequent and wily opponent on the green table) I now have a ticket for the table tennis on Sunday 29th July. It thus seemed about time A Humument serviced both ping and pong. The latter is hard to find in the prose of W. H. Mallock yet I did discover it lurking in the middle of 'sponge' (on page 286) which may be the only word in English in which it is secreted. 

p286-humument-2011-id1939-150 tweeted 13th July @TomPhillipsArt

A Humument now features ping and pong.
How can it have ignored them for so long?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012 15:54 Written by Tom Phillips

Habeas Corpus

It was a fine idea of my friend Bernard Moxham, Professor of Anatomy at the School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, to celebrate with art the terminal largesse of those who donate their physical remains to science.

I eventually came up with an idea for a memorial which fits the budget and I hope does sensitive honour to their generosity. The first task had been to devise a fitting text neither too long or too official in character. After a good few tries, skating on the thin ice of the sentimental over the deep pond of banality I decided on

                                  ALIVE WE THOUGHT BEYOND OUR LIVES

                          TO GIVE OUR BODIES AS A BOOK FOR YOU TO READ

This was to be etched on veiny red marble with a surround of a stone more earthily green and organically patterned. The two marble elements to be separated by a shallow linear trench filled with bone.

I showed the watercolour design (seen here) to Matthew Nation (of Taylor Pearce) who gladly offered to help me with the technicalities with his usual skill as he had done with the Conflict Memorial in Westminster Abbey.


This week I headed for the Taylor Pearce workshop in New Cross clutching a plastic bag full of the bone fragments I had gathered (ask no questions) to be crushed into powder. Strange cargo to be carrying on a 36 bus crowded with people phoning or being phoned. Hence the tweeted couplet:-

Who is this fellow who nobody phones
on the 36 bus with a bag of bones


The whole memorial, appropriately horizontal and about as long as a modestly sized human being, is to be installed in early August on the wall of the College's dissecting room. Perhaps one day (now not too far away) I should elect to join those dedicated stiffs in the land of my fathers.