William Tillyer is a celebrated British painter and watercolorist, whose work has been shown frequently in London and New York since the 1970s. He began to make radically experimental work, which raised questions about the relationship of art to the world, and of man to nature. Tillyer’s series The Watering Place takes its name from the Rubens masterpiece in the collection of the National Gallery, London (1615-22). This work was also the inspiration for a painting of the same name by the English artist Thomas Gainsborough (before 1777) and later for John Constable's The Hay Wain (1821), both paintings also in the collection of the National Gallery, London. This series conveys Tillyer’s deep engagement with painting, particularly abstraction and the tradition of landscape painting. It also reveals the undiminished ambition with which the artist continues to bring fresh insight to the underlying obsessions of his experimental oeuvre; his investigations into the nature of the art object and its role in the world; and his search for materials and techniques not usually associated with painting.
In The Watering Place there is a fiery sky shot through with blue and green swirls, clouds and veils, and two glowing, orange orbs. In their color and surface, the paintings reference the North Yorkshire moors where the artist has lived for most of his life. The landscape around him has long been a source of inspiration, which he first explored in an early student piece, entitled The Vortex, 1958, depicting a “vortex of sky above the moors’.
'William Tillyer: Against Nature', MIMA, Middlesbrough, Exhibition catalogue, 25th October 2013 - 9th February 2014, p.19.
Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London, William Tillyer: The Watering Place, 11 October - 20 December 2013
About William Tillyer
William Tillyer’s approach to painting is constantly evolving. His work redefines and reinterprets classic subject matter, like landscapes, still lifes, and portraits, in methods that challenge historical traditions and vary between bodies of work. During a time in which Tillyer believes art is too often a projection of the artist, he attempts to initiate instead a dialogue between elements of paint, surface, and subject. His “Helmsley Sky Studies”, for example, are based a cloud series by 19th-century Romantic painter John Constable. Unlike the originals, which Constable controlled solely by oil paint and precise brushwork, Tillyer incorporates grids of metal lattice; as the paint conforms to the wire mesh, the focus is shared by subject and materials, thus separating it from the confines of the traditional landscape.
British, b. 1938, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom