Reproducing technical imagery also has very direct crossover into Phillips’s depictions of automobiles and engines, with the present work being a marvellous example. Although the imagery also has obvious associations with the Pop movement in general, Phillips expresses a more individual predilection for mechanical objects. As a machine functions as a result of the successful interrelation of its constituent parts, Phillips is keen to express the interchangeability of objects in general, and the perfect uniformity of mass production, from pistons to lipstick. The visual material that he draws from and recreates is that of mass production, from magazines, decals, scientific drawings and pin ups. This body of literature was valuable and immediate for the artist as the works were already everywhere but from a practical point of view, as they were already two dimensional their translation to the canvas was made all the more straightforward. These visual sources would of course be absolutely familiar to any viewers which therefore makes the imagery direct, but Phillips reflects on the ubiquity of it all. The structure of the compositions as a whole, however, is more than just a comment on materialism, and the juxtaposition of images and geometry itself becomes the vehicle through which the emotion is imparted. With bright colours and bold and brash imagery the force of his argument comes from the immediacy of the painting.
Although Phillips’s style is viscerally direct, he is at pains to stress that he is not forcing the viewer in to a particular reading of any subject: 'A person who looks at a painting should be able to create himself, he has the freedom to interpret. This is why a painting for me must be complicated, with a lot of different references, handlings of paint, points of view and illusionistic changes. You can read it in a million ways.” (Peter Phillips, quoted in Marco Livingstone, ‘Peter Phillips’, in retroVISION, Peter Phillips, Paintings 1960-1982, exh. cat., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1982, p.10). The visual language that Phillips employs is therefore required to be easy to digest but open to interpretation. The Random Illusion series, of which this work forms a part, is a perfect example of this practice. The paintings reproduce the same categories of imagery in a similar format, closely investigating what the symbolism could possibly mean and how the same iconography can be mixed up and reimagined within varying contexts to utterly different effects, as Phillips himself said: 'There is no such thing as nonsense' (op. cit., p.11).
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