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The Many Paradoxes of Tom Phillips’s A Humument

March 16, 5:30 PM


For half a century, from 1966 to 2016, British artist Tom Phillips engaged with an obscure Victorian novel, A Human Document by W.H. Mallock. Phillips “treated” Mallock’s text (his term) by cancelling most of it by drawing, painting, and collaging while leaving a few words untouched in order to produce a counter-narrative. A Humument, the book thus created, is an enthralling object in which words and images converge to enter in a struggle of sorts, making us profoundly aware of the tensions that exist between the visual and the verbal. Central to Phillips’s modus operandi and to our perceptions of A Humument are the dichotomies of figure/ground, hiding/revealing, seeing/not seeing, selecting/obliterating, forgetting/remembering, affirming/negating. Reflecting upon A Humument in all its rich complexity makes us aware of the coexistence of paradoxical realities, many of which we experience in our daily lives but are not always fully aware of.

Véronique Plesch is Professor of Art History and Chair of the Art Department. Born in Argentina and raised in Switzerland, she holds advanced degrees from the University of Geneva in Art History and French Literature and from Princeton University, where she received her Ph.D. in Art History in 1994, the year she joined Colby’s faculty. She is the author of several books and over eighty articles in English, French, Italian, and Spanish, on subjects such as late medieval and Renaissance iconography, Alpine art, Passion plays, early modern graffiti, and contemporary art—many of them with a focus on word and image issues (she served three terms as President of the International Association of Word and Image Studies, from 2008 to 2017, and is one of the senior editors of Brill’s series Word & Image Interactions). She has curated several exhibitions (for instance, on medieval liturgical objects and on Grand Tour souvenirs) and is one of the editors of the Maine Arts Journal: Union of Maine Visual Arts Quarterly.

A Center for Book & Print program - organized by Colby College Libraries and Arts Office.


March 16
5:30 PM


Greene Block + Studios
18 Main Street
Waterville, ME
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