Confusion is merely the state of being well informed

Humument Fragment by Tom PhillipsIn an interview in the catalogue for his current exhibition at Flowers East gallery, Tom Phillips attributes the quote in the title of this article to Winston Churchill in response to a troubled subordinate. Whenever I engage with Phillips’ work, I get a confused feeling of being both inspired by the elegant simplicity of some of the technique and intensely humbled by their breadth of scope and beautiful execution.
There’s a lightness of tone and refinement of taste that tickles you in lots of places. That may seem a strange thing to say about a piece like Manpower, which stitches prostitutes’ phone-box flyers in a quilt, with stealth bombers woven into the American flag, but I’m standing by it.

This is an art of ideas, but the ideas never form a linear argument. They are given beautiful form, and then left to frolic and fight with each other in the sandpit. Perhaps a lot of art fits that description, which makes it another possible answer to the piece If I’ve Told You Once….
The exhibition runs until Christmas. Unfortunately my two favourite pieces in it, Merry Meetings (Phillips’ elegant doodles over 16 pages of agendas and memos from his Royal Academy activities) and The Limits of my Language, are not available on the web.
[Update, 3 June 02006: the Flowers website now has images of both Merry Meetings and The Limits of my Language, though neither does justice to the originals.]

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