Fire Air Water Earth presents nine of Joe Tilson’s limited edition prints from the 1970s that unravel and enlighten our understanding of the artist’s substantial wooden paintings and sculpture made during the same decade. These wooden works are currently on view in the exhibition Joe Tilson: ALCHERA at Marlborough London and alongside the prints of Fire Air Water Earth demonstrate the diversity of Tilson’s artistic practice, having first trained at the Brixton School of Building.

Together these screenprints and collages mark a historic moment in Tilson’s graphic output, directly reflecting the artist’s move away from London to the countryside of Wiltshire and Tuscany. Constituting part of the larger body of work entitled ALCHERA, Tilson’s influences at this time emerge from extensive research in fields as wide as Australian Aboriginal history to the alchemical studies of Carl Jung and the poetry of W. B. Yeats and Rainer Maria Rilke among others.

The striking collages and prints of Fire Air Water Earth and Tilson’s Alchera Cycle simultaneously move away from Pop Art themes in order to grapple with deeper environmental and philosophical concerns. In particular they explore orders and cycles in time and nature, building on Tilson’s fascination with the “four elements of imaginative experience” as well as his distinctive use of text and language.

Despite their occasionally esoteric content, these ambitious prints broke the rules of conventional printmaking at the time, incorporating collaged photography, string, silver leaf and even a bird’s feather, translating Tilson’s unmistakable wit and experimental temperament into remarkable compositions in their own right. Given their ecological agency and investigation of the natural world, these works, like the unique ALCHERA wooden works, are relevant now more than ever before.

"The first steps for me in 1970 and 1971 were to take the idea of using fire in my work and to start a series of ladders and eggs and to begin the project of the Four Elements - FIRE, AIR, WATER and EARTH - Not in any anti scientific spirit, but because they are, and always will be, the four elements of imaginative experience..." – Joe Tilson

Joe Tilson RA was featured in the Telegraph on 25 June 2021. The artist talked to journalist Chris Harvey about his student days, the Venice Biennale presentation in 1964, his move to the countryside with his family in 1970 and his current exhibition at Marlborough Gallery in London titled Joe Tilson: ALCHERA. The feature also includes Joe Tilson's commission for the Rosslyn Chapel. A new stained glass window by Joe Tilson was unveiled at Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust. 

Joe Tilson

A new stained-glass window has been unveiled in Rosslyn Chapel to mark the 25th anniversary of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, the charity founded in 1995 to oversee its conservation. The window – the first to be installed in 50 years – is the work of renowned artist Joe Tilson, RA.