To print or not to print

Rules are there to be broken, a motto that can readily be applied to Joe Tilson’s body of work.

Rules are there to be broken, a motto that can readily be applied to Joe Tilson’s body of work. In the 1960s, Tilson, one of the founders of British Pop Art, made a list of some of the things he was told you should not do in printmaking, such as make each print different, draw on prints, tear the paper, cut the print, flock the surface and print on the margins – prohibitive rules which Tilson subsequently managed to ignore. As he puts it, ‘My work since then has used all these ideas, not as a didactic programme, but as and when they are appropriate to the meaning.’ In a forthcoming exhibition, some of Tilson’s new work will be shown alongside a selection of his prints from the past five decades, including his pioneering screenprints and collages from the 1960s, which embraced advances in technology, reflected the growth of mass media and exposed changing attitudes towards sexual liberation. As Alan Cristea writes in the foreword to the accompanying book, Tilson/ The Printed Works 1963-2009 by Enzo di Martino, Tilson is an artist ‘who has consistently refused to recognise the artificial and largely arbitrary divisions between “unique” and “editioned”, between “painted” and “printed”‘. Showcasing ‘prints’ that are largely hand-painted and ‘paintings’ that are completely printed, prints that are double-sided, folded, stapled, glued or collaged, the book and exhibition are ‘a celebration of the way in which printmaking has infiltrated and informed every aspect of his creative output’.


Joe Tilson: The Printed Works is at the Alan Cristea Gallery, 31 Cork Street, London W1, from 22 April to 30 May.
Tilson: The Printed Works 1963-2009 by Enzo di Martino is published by Papiro Arte, Editalia and the Bugno Gallery



Latest articles

Remembering Jon Daniel: 1966-2017

We look back on the life and work of the Design Week columnist, independent creative director and social activist “who helped put black participation on the political map”.