A Painter's Painter
Before Merdeka Malayan art was dominated by foreign painters, not all of whom were competent. Yet the young Malayan artist accepted their standards and tried to view his world through their ‘touristic’ eyes. The results were not always happy.
Since then Malaysian art has blossomed in its own luxuriant way and found its roots in native soil. In yet another repetition of history national freedom finds its truest expression in national art. Yet nationalism has its inherent dangers; introspection can become a vice. Malaysian art could become too inbred.
Brian Tilbrook’s exhibition is almost certainly the first display of a European artist’s work to be sponsored by the Arts Council and it would almost seem as if they wished to cross pollinate Malaysian art with the best foreign art within their reach. Thus by sponsoring and encouraging Brian Tilbrook, the Arts Council, together with the British Council, invites Malaysian art lovers to take a look at something different, something exotic and contemporary.
Not that Brian himself presumes to foist himself upon the public; he is much too modest for that. He is soft spoken, gentle and retiring, older looking and more mature than his 32 years; he possesses an inner vitality little suspected
in his quiet manner but very evident in his painting.
He admits that he owes much to his father’s kindly criticism and early help – his father being a well-known landscape painter in England just before the Second World War. Perhaps that is where Brian obtained his extreme sensitivity and sureness of touch. But he also keeps a wide open eye and has travelled extensively in Europe, South East Asia and Japan. He has a great admiration for everything Japanese, particularly their built-in acceptance of aesthetic values, and one senses that perhaps his economy of statement may be due partly to this oriental influence.
An Englishman trained at Ealing and Hornsey Schools of Art, he is most un-English in his unconventional and un-academic style, though not in his competency. If he rejected the dominant academism of art school he certainly
accepted its superb craft, for he has complete mastery of technique. What is refreshing in addition to this craftsmanship is his completely original vision of the Universe. There is nearly always a fourth dimension in his work, a
metaphysical quality alien to the present materialism of Europe.
“I do not subscribe to any ism except perhaps pessimism”, says Brian half jokingly. It is indeed a measure of the man and the artist that he has cast himself so much adrift not only from the influence which must have helped
form him but from all ‘schools’ of painting. It is difficult to categorise him. One might trace a hint of John Piper, Graham Sutherland and Salvador Dali yet still not capture the real spirit and essence of his work.
He is close to nature, feels strongly about it – at times seems to fear it – witness paintings influenced by his visits to Angkor Wat. But he always dominates natural realism and subjects it to his painterly vision and technique. Occasionally he seems to have cast himself adrift even from nature and he unifies into a decorative abstraction such basic raw materials as shapes, space, colour and texture.
This then is Brian Tilbrook – a painter’s painter. He deserves much more than a passing acquaintance. His work will outlive much of the brash, shallow subjectivism which today passes for art. He is a painter of depth.
St John’s Kuala Lumpur, 1964
當外來畫家還未在 Merdeka 馬來亞藝術界中獨佔鰲頭以前，這些外來
這位在 Ealing 和 Hornsey 藝術學校接受教育的英國紳士，其不落俗套
將白賴恩分門別類實非容易之事。在他身上人們可以看到 John Piper,
Graham Sutherland 和 Salvador Dali 的影子，卻仍然無法捉摸到他作
他與大自然唇齒相依，對大自然有濃烈的感情 – 有時甚至好像懼怕它
– 看看 Angkor Wat 一遊對他的影響便知。但他總是能駕馭這自然的
Joseph 弟兄 (Brother Joseph)
1964 年寫於吉隆坡聖約翰學院 (聖若望)