Ten Views of the Union Jack

Tom Phillips (1937 - )

Screenprint (unlimited edition)


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© Crown copyright, UK Government Art Collection

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  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall

    The familiar symbol of the Union Jack is revisited in ten different variations, presented in a two-column vertical grid with an inscription at the bottom. The red stripes of the St George Cross are discernible in some cases, as partial abstract strokes in close up, or as the more familiar diagonal and vertical forms. Tom Phillips has extended the flag’s conventional colour range of red, white and blue, with yellow, green and black. This is reiterated through the series of dots that feature in the background – reminiscent of American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s use of Ben-day dots, a system devised to increase the tonal range in commercial printing through a dot screen method.

    Flags are common motifs in Phillips’ work, which he started using in 1973. That year he was asked to design a flag for the 30th anniversary exhibition of the Midland Group Gallery in Nottingham. He used as a starting point his recollections of a postcard that he had bought while teaching in Kassel, Germany – which depicted Checkpoint Charlie along the Berlin Wall over which a Union Jack flag billowed in the wind. Ten Views of the Union Jack is a later variation of Phillips’ exploration of flag images, with other versions made into cloth tapestries.

  • About the artist
    Born in Clapham, Tom Phillips works as a painter, illustrator, printmaker, writer, curator, theatre set designer and composer. After reading English literature at Oxford University (1957–60), he studied Fine Art at Camberwell School of Art, London, and later taught in art schools in Bath, Ipswich and Wolverhampton. He was appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford in 2005. Notable events in his career include the exhibition of his ongoing literary-based work, ‘The Humument’ at the ICA, London in 1973; his curatorship of the ‘Africa: Art of a Continent’ exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1995; and the retrospectives of his work at the Dulwich Picture and South London Galleries in 1997. Phillips was made a Commander of the British Empire for services to the Arts in 2002, marking the recognition of his life-long commitment to visual culture.
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    Materials & Techniques
    reproduction, screenprint
  • Details
    Ten Views of the Union Jack
    unlimited edition
    Screenprint (unlimited edition)
    Commissioned from the artists via Editions Alecto, February 1976
    GAC number