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Figures and Calligraphy
Trial and Error
grid, serigraph, work on paper, printmaking, pop art,human figure, bold, solid colour, eye catching, segmented, sequential images, calligraphic shape and line, fragmented, mass culture, media, visual clues, Kanji characters, implied movement as in film stills, diagramatic, eastern/western cultural codes, metaphor for globalization, symbol,grids,sequence, pattern comic book, mass-culture,

These images by Wayne Phillips are such accurate examples of what  pop artAn art movement and style that had its origins in England in the 1950s and made its way to the United States during the 1960s. Pop artists have focused attention upon familiar images of the popular culture such as billboards, comic strips, magazine advertisements, and supermarket products. Leading exponents are Richard Hamilton (British, 1922-), Andy Warhol (American, 1928?1930?-1987), Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923-1997), Claes Oldenburg (American, 1929-), Jasper Johns (American, 1930-), and Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-). (Artlex.com)  is that they almost become about pop art. The use of the human body as a flat symbol, and the use of bold, solid colours in combinations that capture our attention, represent widespread trends in the history of pop art.

Phillip's images here are segmented by being broken up into grids. The smaller images within this work are presented in sequence, which means that one follows from the previous one. But because the  gridA framework or pattern of criss-crossed or parallel lines. A lattice. When criss-crossed, lines are conventionally horizontal and vertical; and when lines are diagonal, they are usually at right angles to each other. Typically graph paper is a grid of lines. Things which are often gridded: tiles, tessellations, wire screens, chess boards, maps, graphs, charts, calendars, and modern street plans. (Artlex.com)  is so regular, no two viewers see the sequence in the same way.

Kanji This sequential approach might remind us of two other forms of art, the comic book and the film, both of which are fully within mass culture as forms of expression. In North America especially, people are familiar with the idea of a sequence of images because of media like these which contain visual clues that we use to tell us where to look next. Phillips has robbed us of these clues in these two works, by including kanji (Japanese language characters - see example at left). This disrupts our usual way of reading a sequence of images; kanji is read top-to-bottom, right-to-left, and we are used to reading left-to-right, top-to-bottom.

Phillips’ combination of eastern and western codes, therefore, confuses us as viewers.  We don’t know where to look to find the  subjectA topic or idea represented in an art work.  of the picture. The fact that this combination confuses us makes the work readable as a  metaphorUsed in art as in speech. A term, regularly used for one object, is used for another and suggests a likeness between to the two.  for globalization; when the world shrinks and east and west are combined, we have no idea where we are.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • In Phillips’ works Figures and Calligraphy and Trial and Error, he has given the female figure a similar visual treatment as the foreign kanji text. Why might this be? In what ways is Phillips using the body as a symbol?
Studio Activity
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Select a topic that confuses you, and make a  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  or  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  that would represent that topic, but in a way that will cause your viewer to be confused about it, too. It could be anything that confuses you - your school, your government, your emotions, or even your family or friends.

Before you start your picture, plan how you are going to use your  mediumAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  in a way that shows you are confused.

  • Will you use many lines, or only a few?
  • Will you add other elements to your image, as Phillips has done in Trial and Error and Figures and Calligraphy, to show that our normal ways of reading your image don’t apply?
  • Will you include yourself in your image, depicting yourself in a confused or imaginary state?

Sequence of events

Wayne Phillips’ Trial and Error and Figures and Calligraphy present images in sequence, like a comic book or a film.

  • This day could be a day that has already happened, one that could happen, or an impossible day that you wish for, even if it isn’t possible.
  • Keep in mind questions like:
  • What sorts of events will happen during your perfect day?
  • Who else is present over the course of that day?
  • Are they the reason it’s “perfect” for you?
  • Where will you be?

Armstrong, Bill. Interview with Wayne Phillips, unpublished, March 11, 2009.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning