Brian Tilbrook

An Appreciation of Brian Tilbrook's Art - by Roy Watson


I have heard it said of other painters that their excursions into abstract painting have enhanced their representational work and I can understand that. Abstract work allows more freedom of design, expression and development of theme - an altogether more open approach which helps to free one from the constraints of subject matter in front of one. However, in Brian Tilbrook’s case I can see that it also works the other way round, and I would like to explain why I think so.

It is with great pleasure that I have Tilbrook’s book of paintings of Hong Kong done for the Tourist Board. So, even if I hadn’t seen his mural of the Hong Kong harbour reproduced in the exhibition brochure, I know that he is a master of our craft, and a superb draughtsman, and when I look at his huge abstract paintings I can see that the craftsmanship has added a tremendous weight, authority, depth of colour and texture to his imaginative concepts.

I see a number of final year Art School shows and I always have mixed feelings when I see no evidence of drawing, studied in any depth, observation of nature, or the way light falls in the natural world, all essential parts of our visual vocabulary. It is almost like giving degrees to illiterates, and expecting them to be poets. Worse still – expecting them to teach.

I am convinced that art students are asked to mature too quickly. Art Schools look for consistency rather than development, and the result, it seems to me, is superficial, a trivialisation of what our profession is about. It makes me feel the need to reassess the whole history of our generation. It is true that painters like Kandinsky, Picasso and their associates freed us from the constraints of official art, but from then on – or from the mid 20th century on – art seems to have been led by a gallery culture directed by a commercial instinct, which strives to make things desirable by being ‘in fashion’. Spin doctors have been busy inventing buzz words making of our language a narcosis, and we seem to have fallen asleep into a happy dream where we can pretend to be what we like. Students can be artists and instantly mature. Artists can make a name for themselves, first by being different, reinventing Victorian children’s games and calling it op art and so on, until the way to make a name is to be noticed, by being outrageous until outrageous is no longer noticeable. Where does one go after using elephant dung or suspending half cows in formaldehyde?

It is easy for them to say that I don’t understand, that I see their writing as garbled because I am not clever. I don’t need to be clever, and I don’t want to understand in the sense of ‘know’. I want to be moved by something genuinely felt, by some good ideas that come on a good day. Not in my intellect, but in my soul.

Brian Tilbrook’s work is of quite a different order, and here salvation lies. The fundamental values remain in work such as his. Original has come somehow to mean ‘different’, but its real meaning I am sure is ‘of the origin’.

I am quite sure Brian Tilbrook’s work fulfils his task as visual poet. His inspiration will also cause other spirits to soar, as mine do when I see his huge works. Congratulations on having created some memorable works of real art.

Roy Coulam Watson

British Lakeland Artist

Note from Brian: I include another artist’s kind assessment of my work in particular because he eloquently focuses on a major dilemma for many artists today. Quite simply how to be taken seriously if you are not prepared to indulge in extremism, sensationalism and spiritual nihilism.