Books On Books Collection – Nicholas Phillips

Egyptian Hours (1979)

Egyptian Hours (1979)

Nicholas Phillips

Bound in a leather folding case, a set of 7 hand-colored and variously collaged / cut / embossed etchings, plus title page, on Hot Pressed Saunders paper. H160 x W160 x D40 mm. Edition of XXXIX signed copies in existence, of which this is #XXXVII. Acquired from the artist, 6 August 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

   

Egyptian Hours falls somewhere between book and portfolio box. Somewhat like photos and captions in a photobook, text and relief images play off one another, but only somewhat: at a distance the table of contents names and orders the hours; only the Arabic number glyphs from the “table of contents” mediate the named hours. If the table of contents is held apart as in the photos, the distance shortens.

In the western tradition, the named hours suggest the medieval book of hours, another signal that this is more than a portfolio of prints. There is pleasure in trying to remember the name of the hours from their numbers or guessing it from the evocative images — the image of a window lattice through which to watch, an image of a tile fragment — but the name of the fourth implies a mystery narrative at which to guess.

Who is watching from the window? What does the broken pattern of tiles mean to the watcher? Were the numbered shards found beneath the tiles? What clue do the images of papyrus plants give, or the overlying image of a plot of land (?) bringing the plants into green, the diagonal pattern into blue and black, and the sheet of papyrus into burnt umber? Whose seal holds the folded sheet closed? Whose shroud? Whose garland or necklace with its thread weaving in and out of the intaglio?

The watcher could spend hours turning or spreading the panels out and guessing — and just contemplating this artwork as an evocation of ancient time and time passing.

Egyptian Hours — Addenda

This comparative view of the un-colored embossed prints — especially for the “Hour of Watching” and “Hour of Fragments” — enhances an appreciation of Phillips’ artistry.

Set of 7 blind embossed etching prints, plus 1 intaglio title page. Letterpress numerals. Unnumbered copies. 160 x 160 mm each.  Acquired from the artist, 6 August 2020. Photos: top row, Books On Books Collection and, bottom, courtesy of the artist.

Egyptian Cards (1978)

Egyptian Cards (1978)

Nicholas Phillips (with Fiorenza Bassetti)

Pack of magic playing cards. Offset litho, silkscreen, die cut and held in a silkscreened box. H110 x W62.5 x D22.5 mm. Edition of 10, of which this is #2. Acquired from the artist, 6 August 2020. Photos and video: Books On Books Collection.

Egyptian Cards may be the joker in the pack for the Books On Books Collection. A deck of cards? A magic trick? A dos-à-dos flip book? Without doubt, it is another evocation of different frames of time passing. In one time frame, Nefertiti becomes a mummy.

In another time frame, day dawns on the Pyramids.

And in a third and fourth time frame — the time of the artists’ collaboration and that of a magic trick — a joker (a self-portrait of Fiorenza Bassetti) appears.

Phillips, who has turned to watercolors of a photographic intensity yet pastel texture, continues to layer time in ways that lead the viewer as much into meditation as appreciation. Fitting, then, that these two early works strike that lasting chord.

Further Reading

An Online Annotation of “The Book Made Art” (1986)“, Bookmarking Book Art, 8 May 2020.

Henry, David J. Beyond Words: The Art of the Book (Rochester, NY: Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, 1986). Catalogue for the exhibition held 31 January – 30 March 1986. Catalogue designed by Scott McCarney.

Kahn-Rossi, Manuela. Fiorenza Bassetti (Bellinzona, Switzerland: Salvioni, 2010). In English, 2013.

Phillips, Nicholas, and Salma Nasution Khoo. Best Foreign Language (London: Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery, 2011). Catalogue for exhibition, 17 November – 3 December 2011.

Rolo, Jane, and Jennifer Walwin. Book Works (Bracknell, UK: South Hill Park Arts Centre, 1981). Catalogue for the touring exhibition 28 March 1981 – 4 April 1982. Title page designed by Ron King.

Taylor, Michael. “Books for Whose Sake?”, Crafts, No. 63, July/August 1983, pp. 15-18. Excellent color photo of “Hour of the Clue” in context with works by Roy Fisher, Walter Hamady, Ron King, Katherine Kuehn and Toby Lurie.

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