Shot over 2 years, this 75min feature documentary follows the renowned yet reclusive British artist William Tillyer as he prepares new paintings for a series of major 80th Birthday exhibitions and works on number of collaborative projects
These include a book by one of Britain’s leading poets, Alice Oswald, illustrated with extraordinary watercolours by William Tillyer. Growing up above his father’s hardware store after the second world war in the heavily industrialised north England town of Middlesbrough, Tillyer became fascinated by the fixtures and fittings sold in the store that became a kind of adventure playground for the young artist in embryo. Tillyer designed a number of window displays sponsored by a paint manufacturer that bear an intriguing similarity with Rauschenberg’s later ‘combine’ works. William escaped the pollution and heavy shipbuilding of Middlesbrough by frequently travelling to the vast wide open spaces of the North York Moors near by, eventually painting and drawing them. Unsure whether to become a monk, a farmer, or an artist, alone on the moors William decided to become an artist. Tillyer’s early works are paintings based on the landscape, but he was always fascinated by the physical structures of what he created. Studying at the Slade, he bought together his formative experiences of ‘hardware’ with his passion for landscape and created paintings that broke apart the support. Following a ‘conceptual’ period, using actual fixtures and fittings that one might find in a hardware store, he started to create paintings in which paint was pushed through a mesh. William Tillyer, (left) with his art dealer and lifelong friend Bernard Jacobson. A major new work in progress behind. Pop Star David Bowie was a big admirer of Tillyer’s work and he bought two paintings by him. We see them on display as the Bowie collection is being auctioned after his death at Sothebys. The film also follows William working on his celebrated watercolours for a new poem by Alice Oswald, and the completion of a 30 year print project illustrating a new translation of the late 19th century novel, A Rebours, a work that has inspired generations of artistic thinkers. Tillyer remains outside of the highly commercialised art world of London, preferring to work quietly and alone in his studio in Yorkshire. He is though, championed by his art dealer Bernard Jacobson, who has supported him and exhibited his work in Mayfair since discovering his early prints the 1970’s. Somewhat of an ‘odd couple’ their friendly arguments about the nature of art provide an entertaining and provocative narrative to the film.