Makers of Mystery: Joe Tilson, Frank Dobson, and Nic Collins’ Biggest Dishes

Now in his 92nd year, Joe Tilson is an artist who has defied categorisation throughout his entire career. Join us today as we explore some of his extraordinary work in wood and print, including a monumental wooden labyrinth from the early 1970s. Plus, we’ll be getting up close and personal with two huge dishes from Nic Collins’ current ceramics exhibition, and there’s news of a new Frank Dobson cast at the gallery.

Joe Tilson

Joe Tilson was born in 1928 in London. He initially began work as a carpenter and cabinetmaker before joining the Royal Air Force until 1949. He then studied at St. Martin’s School of Art and at the Royal College of Art, London where he received the Rome Prize – an award which sent him to Italy for a year in 1955.

Tilson has returned to various motifs, symbols and subjects again and again throughout throughout his career, from alphabets to ziggurats, labyrinths to ancient Greek mythology. Tilson is a Royal Academician and his artistic career was celebrated at the Royal Academy in a retrospective exhibition in 2002.

Frank Dobson

Frank Dobson was born in London on 18 November, 1886. The son of a commercial artist, he showed early promise and won an art scholarship aged eleven. On leaving school at the age of fourteen he became a studio assistant to the sculptor William Reynolds Stevens. He then studied at Hospitalfield Art School in Scotland. His work was influenced by his exposure to the modernist art shown in Roger Fry’s landmark exhibition of 1910-11. After spending World War 1 in the Artists Rifles, he showed his first sculptures in Wyndham Lewis’s 1920 Group X exhibition.

Over the years he moved from his early Cubist-inspired sculpture to a more lyrical style based on the female nude form. He also produced a series of notable portrait busts. His work was praised by Roger Fry as ‘true and pure sculpture’ and the critic Clive Bell described his Cornucopia as ‘the finest piece of sculpture which has been produced by an Englishman’

After World War II he was appointed professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art and awarded the CBE.

Nic Collins

Nic Collins was born in 1958 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. A self-taught potter and woodfirer, he started building kilns and wheels during his late teens and early 20s, experimenting with raku, salt glazing and sawdust firings, and using clay sourced from local river banks.

Collins is viewed as one of the leading wood-firers of his generation, continually evolving his craft, developing his firing and kiln techniques, pushing himself to the very limit to achieve the beauty that he seeks.

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