Pop Art Tinged With the Timeless
TILSON By Michael Compton and Marco Livingstone. Thames and Hudson. 183 pp., $45
LOOKING at the recent work of British artist Joe Tilson, it might seem strange to know that he came to prominence in the 1960s, as a member of the Pop Art fraternity.
Pop Art, if it was in any way a movement of inherent homogeneity, was certainly urban. In Britain, it was partly a deliberate snub to what was seen as a soft English tendency toward Neo-Romanticism, harking back to such 19th-century pastoral artists as Samuel Palmer.
Tilson was born in London, and he worked in the city after attending art school there. (He had previously been trained as a carpenter and had served in the Royal Air Force.) When no longer a student, he lectured at St. Martin's School of Art, which was quite a stirring pot for new ideas in the early '60s London art world.
But the content of his art, even if it did seem to use some commercial techniques espoused by many of the Pop artists - the silk-screen, acrylic look, the depersonalized surfaces and smooth edges - did not, in fact, echo the ironic engagement with modern trivia, style, or communication that characterized much of the work of these artists. Nor, looking back now, did it make many specifically urban references. @bodytextdrop =
IN 1970, Tilson and his wife moved to Wiltshire, England, into the countryside. They have lived and worked there, and in a second house in Tuscany, ever since. But he was not, as it turned out, the only so-called Pop artist in Britain to head for the country. Painter Peter Blake also did so.
Both retreats, if that is the right word, seem to have been the result of an instinctual recognition that urban art - along with urban people - had somehow lost touch with vital origins and convictions, and that art should become once again, as it had been in the past, a necessary tool for reforging links with the earth, nature, and ancient beliefs.
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