Alice Oswald
William Tillyer

27th April - 30th June

William Tillyer, For A. O. / Articulations, 2017, Watercolour on Arches paper, 57.8 x 57.2 cms 

Bernard Jacobson Gallery is delighted to announce Nobody, a collaboration between the acclaimed British artist, William Tillyer and Alice Oswald, widely regarded as the finest living British poet. Nobody is presented as part of a special year of books and exhibitions featuring the work of Tillyer in celebration of the artist’s 80th birthday in 2018.

A partnership between two art forms, Nobody is a unique crossover work - both a book and an exhibition of luminous watercolours. Created over 3 years and inspired by each other’s promptings and shared ideas, Nobody is a watery world from which Tillyer and Oswald gave expression to the shared belief that tension is the essence of form, or as Tillyer eloquently describes, ‘Not competing, but traveling side by side; a shared path.’.

Their theme is water, which they recreate in a collage of words and images; a rush of selves and other life forms where fluidity is given voice and form. The choice of watercolour is particularly apt, described by Oswald as ‘an absence – as if the thing depicted were already elsewhere and what’s left is merely a tidemark’. In Oswald, this quality is expressed in waves of language where the un-named characters assume the quality described by Oswald as ‘the weather’s or water’s leavings’.

‘Nobody’ is an alias of Odysseus, one of his lost selves, adrift and unable to get home. Oswald’s words are his rhapsody, a circling shoal of sea voices which ends where Homer’s epic begins. Caught between The Odyssey and The Oresteia and not knowing either story’s conclusion, the poet goes on speaking surrounded by water. Perhaps he is only an alias of Odysseus, one of his lost selves, unable to get home?

This poem is a circling shoal of sea voices, inspired by Homer’s descriptions of the sea – ‘the bodiless or unbounded thing’ which ends at The Odyssey’s beginning whilst the paintings immerse us in a visionary experience of an elusive, almost abstract, lyrical and romantic world. Springing from Tillyer’s belief in the shared essence of all things, the paintings are a tangible accompaniment to Oswald’s poem, explored through paper, water, and pigment, resulting in a single dazzling work of words and watercolour.



Celia Bailey  |  + 44 (0) 7930 442 411



Alice Oswald is the author of several renowned collections including Dart (2002), her evocation of the human history of the Devon river valley where she and her family live, and Memorial (2011) her ‘excavation’ of the Iliad where lyric is borne along in blood. Another long poem, Tithonus, was the centre-piece of her 2016 Griffin Prize winning collection, Falling Awake.

William Tillyer was born in Middlesborough and studied in London at the Slade School of Fine Art, before moving to Paris to study under Stanley William Hayter at the hugely influential Atelier 17. He has since become the most versatile British artist of his generation, the heir to Constable by way of CeĢzanne and Matisse.

Nobody is published by 21 Publishing an independent illustrated art book publishing company, established in 1997 by David Bowie, Sir Timothy Sainsbury, Bernard Jacobson, and Karen Wright (then editor of Modern Painters) Nobody will be available to purchase from April 2018, £25.
Previous 21 publications have included Blimey! And It Hurts by Matt Collings as well as the recent critically acclaimed monograph by Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant. A new illustrated translation of A’ Rebours with illustrations by William Tillyer, inspired by the text was published in February 2018.

Bernard Jacobson Gallery was founded in 1969 as a publisher and dealer in prints. Over nearly 50 years the gallery has exhibited many great British, American and European artists including: Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Peter Lanyon, Robert Motherwell, Bruce McLean, Ben Nicholson, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, James Rosenquist, William Scott, Frank Stella, Pierre Soulages, William Tillyer, and Marc Vaux.