Tuesday, 14 June 2011


My godmother, taking my hand and pointing to the sky, would said to me as a child ‘Just look at those clouds! If people had to pay to see them, there'd be queues all round the block...'

Acrylic on perforated paper 58.4x76.2cm

I don’t believe you can have too many paintings of the sky.  This beautiful study at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery is part of a series based on an area on the edge of Ryedale in North Yorkshire, and it’s easy to see it as part of an historic English landscape tradition.  I saw the picture on the day when The Times newspaper ran a weather feature about how, even in London at the moment, ‘if you blotted out the buildings and looked up it has felt a bit like stepping into a picture by Constable'.

I first saw Tillyer’s work in 1998 when he was shortlisted for the Jerwood Painting Prize in a year when the judges ‘found it a most difficult challenge to reduce the numbers. The ten selected artists are all exceptional exponents of painting as a versatile and exciting medium’. This picture is built on the accumulated experience of half a century of innovation, of making works which strive towards a fresh interpretation of the landscape tradition - and painting in general. 
Helmsley Sky Studies sees Tillyer working on a perforated lattice, suspended above a white background. The paint weaves its way through the broken surface. We are reminded that seascape – and landscape and skyscape - are shaped and valued by our imaginative capacity for symbolism.  

What is especially delightful about Tillyer’s distinctive way of painting is that however beautiful his work, it’s rooted in the real world of air, water and earth. I wonder if he saw Cloudspotting, the BBC TV documentary presented by Gavin Pretor-Pinney last April, which drew on science, meteorology and mythology for a playful trip round distinctive cloud types. Another way of responding to the sublime without losing touch with science, meteorology and the here and now.

Image by kind permission of the Bernard Jacobson Gallery


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