Mother Earth

Joe Tilson (1928 - )

Screenprint with collage


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© Joe Tilson. All rights reserved, DACS 2016

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Image of Mother Earth
  • About the work
    Country: Turkey
    City: Ankara
    Place: British Embassy

    In this image, a number of elements including photographs of trees, straw, a drawing of a worm or snake and a couple of goddess-like figures, appear to have been collaged onto a background that resembles a sectioned cardboard box laid flat. Brought together these seemingly disparate strands reflect the idea of Mother Earth, namely the association between ‘woman’ and ‘nature’ where the mother is seen as an all-giving and sustaining source of life. This print is part of the Alchera project, one of a number of images that Joe Tilson produced in the early 1970s using symbols drawn from rural life which take as their theme the elements of earth, air, fire and water. At this time, Tilson moved away from London to adopt a simpler rural lifestyle, and he became increasingly interested in nature, astrology, ancient mysticism and symbolism.

    In each of the Alchera prints, words, photographs and printed symbols are used to create a visual imagery that reflects the title of each one. The word ‘Alchera’ comes from Oceanian mythology and describes a distant period of time when the ancestral spirits of aboriginal tribes walked on the earth. One of the main ideas on which this project is based is the mediaeval system of earth, air, fire and water: a four-fold division which can be traced in many different cultures and systems of thought. The symbols and signs used in Tilson’s prints are like objects of contemplation – keys perhaps to greater spiritual understanding and contentment. Throughout history, signs have held magical properties and the artist, as a manipulator of the sign, is often regarded as the ‘magician’ who releases these hidden properties in their own individual way.

  • About the artist
    Joe Tilson is known for his paintings, prints and constructions. He was born in London in 1928 and began his working life as a carpenter, before serving in the Royal Air Force between 1946 and 1949. He studied in London at St Martin’s School of Art (1949–1952) and at the Royal College of Art (1952–1955), where Peter Blake was a fellow student. He was awarded the Rome Prize and lived in Italy from 1955 to 1957. On his return to Britain he taught at St Martin’s from 1958 to 1963 and also at the Slade School of Art in London, the School of Visual Arts in New York, and the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg. His first solo exhibitions were held in the early 1960s and his work attracted international attention when it was shown at the Venice Biennale in 1964. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1985 and was made a full Academician in 1991. More recently, he has exhibited THE FLAGS, a site-specific installation for the Swatch Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale, combining images from Venetian church facades, geometric patterns on stone flooring, and written inscriptions. His works can be found in a large number of collections around the world, including Tate and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He divides his time between Britain and Tuscany.
  • Explore
    Materials & Techniques
    collage, screenprint
  • Details
    Mother Earth
    Screenprint with collage
    Purchased from Waddington Galleries, February 1977
    tr: A/P Joe Tilson 1972
    GAC number