On page 11 of Tom Phillips’ A Humument, Phillips suggests there is some kind of battle between good and evil and more importantly how it affects the human element. Phillips uses fire and the presence of blue as a resistant force against the fire of red. By using traditionally involved colors with themes, Phillips presents this battle and how it intends to play out.
To start there is a breach in the very title of the page that presents a question right off the top. The inferno red hides the “an doc” part of the Human Document. Now it could be interpreted as a questioning of what the picture really is. The picture is a test to the intellectual capabilities of the observer. The fire can be seen as the shape of a dragon, a mythological creature who presents chaos and destruction. The fire can be seen arising from the depths of hell. Phillips contrasts this by using the blue base of the painting to represent the ocean which has been used in literary works to traditionally represent a cleansing region. The water represents the rising force that pushes away the immoral acts being committed on the written words.
With the focus changed to the top “half” of the page there is a noticeable point in the highlighted words that appear. Phillips talks of the “book” that is given to a “reader” and tells the reader that he can not reveal what it is indeed that he has changed. Phillips makes these words the first primary highlight of his page. It is from here that the flaming red terror eats up the rest of the page and proceeds to wear away at it’s meaning. The scarlet is fractured at spots, possibly indicating that there is something of some importance to the words he presents. Phillips preserves the words of his play “but..it is a hum.. ument” which brings about the essential thought process behind the picture.
Phillips prepares to reach his point by the second “half” of his artwork. He labels the second half of his painting “The Characters.” There is an influence that the characters play in preserving the work created by artists. The usage of the first line, “the history viola” provides something comforting to match the teal blue of the imagery of the ocean or force of good and well-being. A violin however is also associated with the song of departure and ever lasting depression. As it applies to the page, the violin can be used as a romantic ballad to incorporate the cooperation of love and hate in the battle for literary equality. The turquoise and rose align to describe the two realities that Phillips’ sees affecting the everyday words and the threats they pose in society.
The blue box is set off with the red raging from the depths and acting as it’s own unit in the page. The page also goes to show the old adage that you can’t fit a square inside a circle which might help represent the contrast of ideas associated with Phillips skepticism of the written word and the threats that are opposed to this everyday.
The characters are representing the root of all good that can come from a work. Demonstrated by the strands of roots that stem from the title feature are damaged elements of writing that could be fixed by features of the blue texts. The furthest from the strand involves people or the fractured word of people. The establishment of this word’s distance implicates that people are different from characters. There are features such as the operation and togetherness that separate these two factors of literature. Much like the words on the page there is no connection and thus creates an interpretation of what the rest of the text really means. The page is a message from Phillips and from the large scale literary world that tells the watcher that there is indeed a battle that thinkers face and the changes that are to occur soon are going to be forever repressed.