The lucidity of one’s memories is in a constant struggle against the inevitable darkness that comes with the fading of mortality as Tom Phillips depicts in his artwork. Phillips uses an excerpted page entitled the Human Document, to show the inevitable fade of one’s emotions and memories as time prevails. Through his contrasting use of colors, from vibrant to dark, thoughtful placement of his selective diction, and contrast of the artificial with the natural using specific images, Phillips is able to accomplish a mood of looming darkness and nightfall.
The brightest and most vibrant colors present on page 354 are shades of pinks and reds. These colors, dominate the major portions of the page, just as the most unforgettable memories may dominate the minds of its beholders. Such bright colors symbolize the most vivid experiences in one’s life. The color red possesses a dual meaning: with the brightness connoting joy but the redness connoting pain since it may allude to blood. With this duality in meaning, Phillips is able to portray the pieces that puzzle together to form the memories one holds: the feeling of happiness and pain. However, the bright colors Phillips uses is no doubt contrasted by the inking black that creeps up from the corner and is slowing engulfing the page. This contrast places emphasis on the two forces at hand. The force of the brightness of the piece, pushes for the prevalence of memory against the force of darkness as death slowly takes over. At the captured moment of the artwork, Phillips shows only a small portion of the page covered by the dead black color. Nonetheless, viewers receive an inevitable sense that the black color will soon overwhelm the art work as a whole, swallowing life and its memories along with it.
In addition to the contrast of colors, Phillips contrasts images as well through his use of perspective. He is able to depict life through cartoon like images of drawn flowers on the wall with a vibrant use of color, but he is also able to allude to life using natural colors of life, green and blue, shown through the small window. The perspective Phillips uses to draw viewers’ attention to the outside creates a focus on the distance of life. The outside, portraying an impressionistic image with a blue sky and green hill seems out of place and rather surreal. With the ambiguity of the shapes in the images of the outside, Phillips tries to show the blurring of one’s memories as “night” or rather death, looms near. Phillips shows the engulfing of one’s life along with its memories through the ebbing of the black color on the page, but he also uses a subtle blurring and darkening in the sky to foreshadow nightfall.
Phillips’s piece places words artistically to contribute to the sense of a fading memory of love as words trail listlessly down the page. Meant to illustrate the initial vividness of one’s memory, he groups together the majority of the words in his piece at the top of the page. However, the words soon become loose and separated just as one’s recollection of the past becomes vague and distant. Though death can envelop one’s memories, “loving [someone]…is contained in the record of the…night.” The “love” Phillips decides to incorporate in his piece suggests the immortality of the emotion despite physical death. The “love” is “recorded” despite the arrival of “night.” Phillips draws readers to the strands of words, as it protrudes through and contrasts the colors of the background. The speaker of the words seem to declare that since his memories has been swallowed by “night” he “can’t write anymore” and declares surrender as he “come…away”, departing from his memory. Since the words move off the page of the artwork, openings are created, leading to a leak of memories into the “night” the speaker refers to. The speaker surrenders his memories as the words “night” and “away” ventures off the canvas of the page. Like many of his other pages of artwork, Phillips uses the word “toge” to depict the separation of together. The memories of the past, whether it be emotions or experiences is now detached as death begins to overpower life.
Through the words he selects, he creates a parallel between night and death. Phillips depicts the overwhelming power of death as he uses night to show its fall upon light, leaving a sense of gloom and darkness.
The sunny facade that the picture portrays possesses an underlying and undeniable lingering darkness. Phillips utilizes both words and images to evoke the imagination of his viewers. As day turns into night, and as one’s life draws to an end, the memories one leaves behind must struggle against the darkness to be remembered. With clear distinctions between light and dark, contrasts between images of life and death, and diction placed to visually demonstrate the dominating struggle of the art piece, Phillips is able to develop the idea of not only life versus death, but the ability for memories of emotions and experiences to stay alive despite the death of its owner. As the title of the piece “A Human Document” suggests, Phillips’s art on page 354 represents a documentation of life and death along with the trail of memories left behind that struggles to be preserved.