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Joe Tilson N E W PA I N T I N G S


10 April — 18 May 2019

Joe Tilson N E W PA I N T I N G S

Marlborough Fine Art 6 Albemarle Street London W1S 4BY +44 (0)20 7629 5161 mfa@marlboroughfineart.com www.marlboroughlondon.com


Joe Tilson: A Shoplifter in Venice WA L D E M A R JA N U S Z C Z A K

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” – Truman Capote Wrong. Venice is not like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go. Not when you know it better. Not if you are culturally sentient and have eyes in your head. Not if you’ve fallen in love with it to a mad depth, and you’re a bit of a cultural bandit, so you know how to steal. Not if you’re wise, experienced and bookish. Not if you’ve read Ruskin. Not if you desperately want what Venice has. Not if you are Joe Tilson. Joe is on the end of a very long line of artists who have got to La Serenissima and sought to respond to her unique presence. Turner went. Monet. Renoir. Whistler. Pretty much every notable American from Thomas Moran to John Singer Sargent. Lots of notable Brits from Bonington to Roger Fry. But, to a greater or lesser degree, they all went as tourists. And the Venice they sought to record was the first Venice that meets the eye: that gorgeous Venice of shimmering waters and golden sunsets, of magical palaces floating just above the sea-line and vignetting fogs cloaking every sight in mystery. It’s a Venice that drew the poets as well: Byron and Shelly, Wordsworth and Longfellow. Even Nietzsche was stirred into ecstasy by the insubstantiality of La Serenissima and the song of the gondolier: ‘As a golden drop it welled/over the quivering surface/drunken it swam out into the twilight’. Joe knows this Venice, too. As we’ll see, it has started occasionally to poke through the surface of his art and can perhaps be recognised in the tiny crescent moon that lights up his ogee windows so romantically. But most of his Venetian shop-liftings eschew the shimmering waters and the plaintive gondoliers. Joe’s Venice won’t fog up when the mists come in or shimmer into nothingness when the light is right. Clearly seen, tangibly painted, his Venice is a city of stone, where the walls don’t move, and the floors don’t sink. Most British painters who got to Venice recorded the other kind. The one that floats on the surface of reality and brushes against the dreamworld. But Joe isn’t a tourist. For two decades he has had a house in the city and lives there for much of the year. I visited him once at Casa Tilson. I was expecting somewhere on a canal, somewhere with vistas, a misty pad with Byronic


views. Instead, it was all rather cramped. A small courtyard packed with houses led into a set of tight spaces that felt insistently vertical, with none of that sprawling Venetian horizontality that seduced the Turners and the Monets. In Joe’s pad you climb to the art. And as you do so, the walls push against you, and make you conscious of your outlines. Some of the sensations of his Venetian paintings, their verticality, their frontality, is, therefore, a domestic inheritance. When Joe paints, there’s no room in his studio to swing a Venetian cat. No space for seas and vistas, waters and horizons. When Joe paints, he paints with his face squashed against the glass like an eager schoolboy outside a goody shop. There are books everywhere, of course. There always have been with Joe Tilson. His love affair with Italy, which dates from the onset of his adulthood – the guy is 90 now, so that’s a long, long relationship! – has always been underpinned by antiquarian hungers and the stuff of knowledge. Joe is a looker, yes, but he is more of a thinker. And his art co-mingles two realities. On the outside, he gives us something beautiful to look at. On the inside, it gives us something elusive to puzzle over and connect. The Venetian pictures aim in their titles for a note of archival authority as they mine and exploit the Venetian knowledge bank of John Ruskin, whose Stones of Venice is perhaps the greatest attempt in art critical literature to marry the twin impulses of encyclopaedic archaeology and sense-drunk amazement. Full of clear-sighted illustrations of Venice’s intricate details – the statues, the niches, the window-shapes, the mosaic decorations – Ruskin’s great tome provides insistent evidence of a mad love of the city: an amour fou. And that’s also what you get with Joe.

The Stones of Venice San Cristoforo shows us St Christopher carrying the infant Christ across the river. Based on a sculpture outside the Accademia Gallery, it’s one of those clue-filled figurines in a niche we generally hurry past in Venice, without looking up. But Ruskin noticed it. And so did Joe. However, when I ask if the chequerboard of glowing colours that surround St Christopher was also stolen from a passing Harlequin at Carnival time, he advises me to stop looking up, and to start looking down. Venice, he thrills, is a city in which you need to


“It’s the big difference. Most painters who arrive in Venice look out. Not him. Joe looks up. Joe looks down. Joe looks in.”

savour the pavements, the floors of the churches, the Byzantine mosaics under your feet. That’s where the real Harlequins are gathered.

The Stones of Venice Ca’ Foscari 3 is a tribute to the sumptuous palace of that name on the Grand Canal, designed by Bartolomeo Bon in 1453, a building renowned for the delicate beauty of its gothic tracery. Floral gothic they call it. Joe has repeated three of these whispery windows and plonked them in the centre of the picture like a jeweller setting a stone. Or perhaps, like a joiner positioning a marquetry panel. Joinery was his first job, and a joiner is what he remains: joining things from over there, with things from over here. The windows at the Casa Foscari also strike an Islamic note. They’re a reminder of Venice’s prime location at the crossroads between the East and the West; of the crucial contribution made to the city’s fabric by its Eastern past. The jaunty geometry that surrounds them has its origins in the decorative geometry of the Great Mosque in Damascus, where Venetian traders bartered for potash for the glassworks on Murano. Or the fine filigree around the mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, where they bought their spices and their silks. Nowhere in Europe is more Islamic than Venice. What, then, of that crescent moon peeping charmingly out of the blue sky between the arches, Joe? Where did that come from? He hasn’t a clue. Perhaps from The Thousand and One Nights, I suggest, a tad sheepishly? It’s a soppy idea. And let’s face it, soppiness doesn’t play well in art today. The series known as The Stones of Venice San Marco is strikingly different. These are paintings in a long Joe Tilson tradition of neat compartments, six up, six across, each of which contains a clue or a hieroglyph. They look as if they can be solved, if you have the ancient knowledge. But they can’t. The forces that have brought them together are the forces not of reason, but of happenstance. Like the Byzantine mosaics rolling and buckling across the floor of St Mark’s Cathedral, made of scattered bits of ancient marble gathered from this epoch and that, the San Marco paintings are Joe’s tribute to the act of looking down. It’s the big difference. Most painters who arrive in Venice look out. Not him. Joe looks up. Joe looks down. Joe looks in.


List of works

01 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Foscari 2, 2017 acrylic on canvas 178 x 142 cm (70 x 55 ⅞ in.) 02 PC from Venice Aldo Manuzio, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

50 x 35 cm (19 ⅝ x 13 ¾ in.)

03 PC from Venice Ca’ Contarini Fasan, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

50 x 35 cm (19 ⅝ x 13 ¾ in.)

04 The Stones of Venice San Cristoforo, 2017 acrylic on canvas

183 x 122 cm (72 x 48 in.)

05 PC from Venice Ca’ Foscari 1, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

84 x 60 cm (33 x 23 ½ in.)

06 PC from Venice Ca’ Foscari 2, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood 84 x 60 cm (33 x 23 ½ in.) 07 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Contarini Fasan, 2017 acrylic on canvas

178 x 142 cm (70 x 55 ⅞ in.)

08 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Foscari 1 Diptych, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

27 x 36 cm (10 ⅝ x 14 ⅛ in.)

09 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Contarini Fasan Diptych, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

34 x 45 cm (13 ⅜ x 17 ⅝ in.)


10 The Stones of Venice Il Torre dell’ Orologio Diptych, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

34 x 45 cm (13 ⅜ x 17 ⅝ in.)

11 The Stones of Venice San Sebastiano Diptych, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

27 x 36 cm (10 ⅝ x 14 ⅛ in.)

12 The Stones of Venice Sant Alipio, 2018 acrylic on canvas

183 x 152 cm (72 x 59 ¾ in.)

13 The Stones of Venice San Marco 36/I, 2018 acrylic on canvas 183 x 183 cm (72 x 72 in.) 14 The Stones of Venice San Marco 36/II, 2018 acrylic on canvas

183 x 183 cm (72 x 72 in.)

15 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Foscari 3, 2018 acrylic on canvas

114 x 152 cm (44 ⅞ x 59 ¾ in.)

16 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Mastelli, 2018 acrylic on canvas 183 x 152 cm (72 x 59 ¾ in.) 17 The Stones of Venice Ca’ D’oro, 2018 acrylic on canvas

183 x 152 cm (72 x 59 ¾ in.)

18 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Foscari 4, 2018 acrylic on canvas

183 x 152 cm (72 x 59 ¾ in.)


01 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Foscari 2, 2017 acrylic on canvas 178 x 142 cm (70 x 55 ⅞ in.)


02 PC from Venice Aldo Manuzio, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

50 x 35 cm (19 ⅝ x 13 ¾ in.)


03 PC from Venice Ca’ Contarini Fasan, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

50 x 35 cm (19 ⅝ x 13 ¾ in.)


04 The Stones of Venice San Cristoforo, 2017 acrylic on canvas

183 x 122 cm (72 x 48 in.)


05 PC from Venice Ca’ Foscari 1, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood

84 x 60 cm (33 x 23 ½ in.)


06 PC from Venice Ca’ Foscari 2, 2017 mixed media on canvas on wood 84 x 60 cm (33 x 23 ½ in.)


07 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Contarini Fasan, 2017 acrylic on canvas

178 x 142 cm (70 x 55 ⅞ in.)


08 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Foscari 1 Diptych, 2017

09 T  he Stones of Venice Ca’ Contarini Fasan Diptych, 2017

mixed media on canvas on wood

mixed media on canvas on wood

27 x 36 cm (10 ⅝ x 14 ⅛ in.)

34 x 45 cm (13 ⅜ x 17 ⅝ in.)


10 The Stones of Venice Il Torre dell’ Orologio Diptych, 2017

11 The Stones of Venice San Sebastiano Diptych, 2017

mixed media on canvas on wood

mixed media on canvas on wood

34 x 45 cm (13 ⅜ x 17 ⅝ in.)

27 x 36 cm (10 ⅝ x 14 ⅛ in.)


12 The Stones of Venice Sant Alipio, 2018 acrylic on canvas

183 x 152 cm (72 x 59 ¾ in.)


13 The Stones of Venice San Marco 36/I, 2018 acrylic on canvas 183 x 183 cm (72 x 72 in.)


14 The Stones of Venice San Marco 36/II, 2018 acrylic on canvas

183 x 183 cm (72 x 72 in.)


15 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Foscari 3, 2018 acrylic on canvas

114 x 152 cm (44 ⅞ x 59 ¾ in.)


16 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Mastelli, 2018 acrylic on canvas 183 x 152 cm (72 x 59 ¾ in.)


17 The Stones of Venice Ca’ D’oro, 2018 acrylic on canvas

183 x 152 cm (72 x 59 ¾ in.)


18 The Stones of Venice Ca’ Foscari 4, 2018 acrylic on canvas

183 x 152 cm (72 x 59 ¾ in.)


Biography 1928  Born in London 1946-49 Served in the Royal Air Force 1949-52 Studied at St Martin’s School of Art, London 1952-55 Studied at the Royal College of Art, London 1955-57 Studied in Italy 1958 Returned to London 1991 Elected Royal Academician 2001 Elected Associate of the Accademia di San Luca, Rome  Lives and works in London and Venice SOLO EXHIBITIONS Opere 1980-2000, Menhir Arte 2018  Contemporanea, Milan Joe Tilson at 90, Marlborough Fine Art, London Joe Tilson at 90, Alan Cristea Gallery, London  Joe Tilson RA, The Academician’s Room, Royal 2017  Academy, London Postcards from Venice, Die Galerie, Frankfurt am Main Tilson: The Stones of Venice, Marlborough 2016  Fine Art, London Tilson, Words and Images: The Notebooks,  Alan Cristea, London A Survey, Marlborough Fine Art, London 2013  Pop & Politics, Marlborough Graphics 2012-13 University of Ljublijana 2012 Bugno Art Gallery, Venice 2009 Alan Cristea Gallery, London 2008 Bugno Art Gallery, Venice 2007 Waddington Galleries, London 2006 Retrospective, Palazzo Doria, Loano  Menhir Arte Contemporanea, La Spezia 2004 Beaux Arts Gallery, London 2002 Prints, Alan Cristea Gallery, London  Beaux Arts Gallery, London  Retrospective, Royal Academy of Arts 2001 Retrospective, Castelbasso, Abruzzo  Retrospective, Giò Marconi Gallery, Milan 1999-20 Palazzo Pubblico, Siena; Galleria Communale d’Arte, Cesena; Pinacoteca Civica, Follonica 1999 Peter Guyther Gallery, London  Theo Waddington, Boca Raton, Florida  Castello Doria, Porto Venere 1998 Theo Waddington Fine Art, London Marino alla Scala, Milan 1997 Prints retrospective, Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana

1996 Annandale Galleries, Sydney  Mestna Gallery, Ljublijana 1995 Westend Galerie, Frankfurt  Palazzo Pubblico, Siena  Theo Waddington Fine Art, London  Alan Cristea Gallery, London 1994 Pinacoteca, Macerata  Galleria Rotta, Genova 1993 Multimedia, Brescia  Giò Marconi, Milan  Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola  Heter A Hundermann Galerie GmbH, Dusseldorf 1992 Extra Moemia, Todi  Waddington Graphics, London  Waddington Galleries, London 1991 Plymouth City Museum  Tour Fromage, Aosta  Galerie Inge Baecker, Cologne 1990 Centro Culturale Fontanella Borghese, Rome  Fortezza Medicea, Cortona Retrospective, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol 1984  Prints retrospective, Vancouver Art Gallery 1979  Prints, Tate Gallery, London 1978  1976 Marlborough Fine Art, Marlborough Graphics, London 1971 Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; touring to Belgium and Italy  Waddington Galleries, London 1970 Marlborough New London Gallery 1968 Galleria Ferrari, Verona  Galleria de’Foscherari, Bologna  Galerie Brusberg, Hanover 1967 Galleria del Naviglio, Milan 1966 Marlborough New London Gallery  Marlborough Galleria d’Arte, Rome 1965 Kunstamt Renickendorf, Berlin  Stadt Musem, Recklinghausen  Kunstverein, Braunschweig  Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 1964 Marlborough New London Gallery  British Pavilion, XXXII Venice Biennale  Modern Galerija, Zagreb 1963 Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne  Ferens Art Gallery, Hull  Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool  University Art Gallery, Nottingham 1962 Marlborough New London Gallery


LITERATURE Enzo Di Martino, Tilson, The Printed Works – L’Opera Grafica 1963-2009, preface by Philip Rylands and texts by A. Cristea, E. Di Martino, J. Tilson, Papiro Arte, Venice, 2009; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2010 Mel Gooding, Tilson: Pop to Present, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2002 Enrico Crispolti, Terra Cotta e maiolica; sculture e rilievi, Imola, 1995 Michael Compton and Marco Livingstone, Tilson, London and New York, 1992 Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco, Opere recent: Extra Moenia, Todi, 1992 Gillo Dorfles, Maestri contemporanei: Tilson, Milan, 1982 Arturo Carlo Quintavalle (preface by Pierre Restany), Tilson, Milan, 1977 PUBLIC COLLECTIONS Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Belfast: Ulster Museum Bradford Museums and Galleries Bristol City Art Gallery Chichester: Pallant House Gallery Coventry: Herbert Art Gallery Eastbourne: Towner Art Gallery Edinburgh: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Exeter: Royal Albert Memorial Museum Hull: Ferens Gallery Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum Liverpool: Walker Art Gallery London: Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre London: British Council London: British Library London: Contemporary Art Society London: Geffrye Museum of the Home London: Royal Academy of Arts London: The Royal Collection London: Tate London: Victoria & Albert Museum Manchester: Whitworth Art Gallery Middlesborough Art Gallery Newcastle upon Tyne: Hatton Gallery Newcastle upon Tyne: Laing Art Gallery Oxford: Christchurch College Oxford: New College Portsmouth Museum Preston: Harris Museum & Art Gallery

Southampton Art Gallery Warwick: Mead Gallery, University of Warwick Wolverhampton Art Gallery Aachen: Galerie der Stadt Amsterdam: Peter Stuyvesant Foundation Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Antwerp: Museum voor Schone-Kunsten Basel: Kunsthalle Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery Budapest: Ludwig Múzeum Canberra: National Gallery of Australia Cape Town: South African National Gallery Caracas: Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Ciudad Bolivar: Museo de Arte Moderno Copenhagen: Gentofte Kommunes Kunstbibliotek Dunedin Public Art Gallery Florida: Appleton Museum Hamburg: Kunstverein Hanover: Kunstmuseum Humlebaek: Louisiana Museum Johannesburg Art Gallery Lisbon: Gulbenkian Foundation Minneapolis: Walker Art Center New Haven: Yale Center for British Art New York: Museum of Modern Art Nijmegen: Museum Het Valkhof Parma: Università di Parma Pittsburgh: Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute Rome: Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna Rotterdam: Boymans van Beuningen Museum Salvador: Museo de Arte Moderna de Bahia São Paulo, Museo de Arte Sharjah Art Museum Sintra: Museu de Arte Moderna Sydney: Power Gallery of Contemporary Art, University of Sydney Tehran: Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto: National Gallery of Ontario Turin: Galleria d’Arte Moderna Museo Civico di Torino West Palm Beach: Norton Gallery


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40 West 57th Street

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New York, N.Y. 10019

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 5161

Telephone: +1 212 541 4900

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www.marlboroughlondon.com

www.marlboroughgallery.com

Marlborough Contemporary

Marlborough Contemporary

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545 West 25th Street

London, W1S 4BY

New York, N.Y. 10001

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 5161

Telephone: +1 212 463 8634

Telefax: +44 (0)20 7629 6338

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info@marlboroughcontemporary.com

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www.marlboroughcontemporary.com

www.marlboroughcontemporary.com


ISBN: 978-1-909707-58-0 Catalogue Number: 786 Cover: The Stones of Venice Ca’ Contarini Fasan (detail), 2017 Photography: Luke Walker Photograph of the Artist: © Toby Glanville Design: Bright Design London Print: Impress Print Services © 2019 Marlborough


Profile for Marlborough Fine Art

Joe Tilson: New Paintings  

Online exhibition catalogue for Joe Tilson: New Paintings, showing at Marlborough Fine Art, London

Joe Tilson: New Paintings  

Online exhibition catalogue for Joe Tilson: New Paintings, showing at Marlborough Fine Art, London