Joe Tilson: ALCHERA, revisiting works from the 70s and 80s | Marlborough


Joe Tilson: ALCHERA revisits the wooden reliefs, painting and sculptural works of the artist from the 70s and 80s. Named after the ancient Aboriginal concept of a timeless spiritual “dream time”, this set of works marks a change deep in his artistic practice. After moving from London to the countryside of Wiltshire and Tuscany, Tilson abandoned the tropes of British Pop Art to explore timeless, natural and ecological themes, drawing inspiration from influences ranging from the Aboriginal history of Greece ancient and Australian to the handwriting of James Joyce and W. B Yeats among many others.

Handcrafted, burning, marking and painting wood, Tilson’s works connect with natural materials at different time scales: his sculptures become memory devices for ancient stories and recent events, using simple words and linguistic techniques to become carriers of content and, ultimately, symbols of much grander concepts and associations.

The artist’s political and cultural interest in ecology and the natural world is more relevant than ever, as Tilson grapples with enormous environmental cycles and, at the heart of this exhibition, the four ancient elements that are Earth, Water, Fire and Air.
Seeking to establish some sort of order in the world and its ever-changing elements, Tilson uses poetic oppositions and subdivisions of time to present various useful systems: the four seasons, the four elements, the days of the week, and the letters. of the alphabet. Navigating these familiar patterns and cycles, he invites us, as Marco Livingstone writes, “on a journey that replaces a conventional understanding of ‘linear’ time with a broader concept of ‘organic’ or circular time.”

Joe Tilson RA was born in 1928 and trained as a carpenter and carpenter before joining the Royal Air Force and then studying at St Martin’s School of Art (1949-52) and the Royal College of Art (1952- 55). After graduating, he received the Prix de Rome for a year in Italy, introducing him to the classical history and culture that would become important to his art and philosophy over the following decades. Tilson then taught at St Martin’s, the Slade School of Fine Art, the School of Visual Arts in New York and the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog featuring an essay by Marco Livingstone.


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