Tony Phillips: 12 Decades

09 June - 29 August 2021

Tony Phillips’ etching series 12 Decades continues a survey of modern history that has occupied him over the last 40 years.

Phillips' work narrates key events and man-made phenomena from 1900 to the present, from the pioneering inventions that heralded the modern age to the mass-production and consumerism that characterise life today.

One of Tony's etching depicts a series of TVs, cars and other electronic devices. The etching is grey and white.
12 Decades: 1950s, March of Commodities, etching (proof), 2020
An etched drawing shows a man holding a guitar, to his right there is a crowd of people, to his left there is a figure with a chain around his neck, he is holding out a key. The drawing is on grey paper.
Blues III, from Jazz series, etching, 1993

The focus is on the nature of technological progress evinced by our age-old aspiration to fly, starting with an image of the first powered flight (1903), and proceeding through the decades into the modern era of supersonic jet fighters and drones.

"The work is a development of images which have occupied me since the 1980s, and is an attempt to condense some of the essential ingredients that characterise the age in which we live - from 1900 to the present day".
Tony Phillips

The exhibition complements a new installation, 20th Century Chapel that Phillips is working on for Liverpool’s ‘Bombed Out Church’, St. Luke’s, and a proposed pedestrian trail of public artworks between Bluecoat and the church, which were both badly damaged in the Second World War.

The two venues will eventually be connected by a public art trail of painted plaques that the artist is developing, to be mounted on buildings in Bold Street and the Ropewalks district. The trail will lead the viewer from a traditional gallery setting, through the streets, to the ruined church, becoming the real-life testimony of the story told in the artworks - from art to reality.

Go behind the scenes for 12 Decades and hear more about his etching process, the exhibition at the Bombed Out Church and his art trail of public artwork. Film by Niloo Sharifi, 2021

Exhibition image gallery

Photos by Roger Sinek

12 Decades: Rite of Spring, 1911-1920, etching, 2020