Works Include:

The Watering Place - 2013


'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. Tillyer’s eponymous Palmer series refers to the romantic and visionary landscape painter Samuel Palmer (1805-1881) and both series can be seen as part of that same English romantic landscape tradition.

Both series convey Tillyer’s deep engagement with painting, particularly abstraction and the tradition of landscape painting. They also reveal 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. 

The paintings are created from acrylic paint, mesh and canvas. The paint is pushed through a fine mesh creating an intricate surface which is carefully built up and controlled by the artist. Later, when the paint has hardened, the mesh is mounted on canvas. In some works, further layers of paint are added; in others not.

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 colour 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: The Watering Place

11th October to 30th November 2013

More information

Bernard Jacobson Gallery London


The Flatford Chart Paintings with the smaller Cloud Studies - 2010


Centred upon a cloud study motif derived from John Constable's quasi-scientific attempts to map the construction of the skies, (as well as Tillyer's own long-running obsession with clouds as a symbol of interconnectivity within the material realm), these are works that demand to be seen in relation to the historic English landscape tradition even as they push towards a new conception of the genre.

Read William Tillyers statement about The Flatford Chart Paintings with the smaller Cloud Studies


The Cadiz Caprices - 2008


From September 12th at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery London and December 2nd at the Jacobson Howard Gallery New York, 'The Cadiz Caprices', a series of new abstract works by William Tillyer.

The twenty-five works which make up the new series were executed in Tillyer's North Yorkshire studio, and yet recall the complex of impressions and experiences the artist gained during his three month residency, in the Castillo de Santa Catalina, Cadiz, in 2006, at the invitation of the municipal government. The series invites multiple readings on the part of the viewer. On one level, as with Goya's majestic Caprichos, (from which the series derives its name), the works offer an abstracted panorama of Spanish life. From the flowing edges and swirling forms of works like Viva to the underlying menace of Falla, there are presented a wide range of impressions rooted in the movements, colours and ambiences Tillyer observed in the Iberian peninsula.

"The Cadiz Caprices are the greatest abstract paintings about Spain by a non-Spaniard since Robert Motherwell began working on his 'Elegies for The Spanish Republic' around 70 years ago"

John Yau, 2008

"Tillyer has been engaged in a continuous process of de-familiarization and re-education because he understands that only by risk taking and experimentation can art's forms be made to respond conceptually as well as materially to our world of ever changing experiences and perceptions.

...In effect 'The Cadiz Caprices' are the embodiment of a non-linear narrative long sought after by Tillyer. They succeed in undermining our expectations not of painting, but the very act of looking and knowing" Saul Ostrow

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The Cadiz Caprices from York Tillyer on Vimeo.


The Revisionist Wire Works - 2006


The use of wire meshes and grid systems has played an integral part in Tillyer's method of working over the last 30 years. 'The Revisionist Wire Works' mark a return to using an open wire mesh as a substitute for the traditional continuous surface. Tillyer first began opening the surface of paintings to the support wall in 1966. His first 'Wire Mesh Works' were exhibited in 1978.

In these works a conventional geometric form is rendered in a trompe l'oeil way, and this form is surrounded by random paint chaos with no hint of the surrogate. Paint, Support, and Message are bound as one and perceived as, object.

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Hardware Variations on a Theme of Encounter - 2005


"Song of myself, I celebrate myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belongs to me as good belongs to you" Walt Whitman

"Paint. Paint reacting to its support more than paint being an expressive mark or gesture and more than paint being a surrogate for some figuration or narrative I wanted the new pieces I had worked on over the past months to treat paint as object.

These new works were to be 'Variations on a Theme of Encounter'.' The surfaces and structures of the support were to be as a piece of hardware, and as an obstacle to the paint as a protest. 'Obstacles and Protests', were to be minimal requirements of these pieces. Gesture and surrogacy would only qualify this primary expression." William Tillyer

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