Joe Tilson was born in London. After working as a carpenter and joiner and military service with the RAF, he studied at St Martin’s School from 1952 to 1955 and later taught at St Martin’s School of Art from 1958 to 1963, and as visiting lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art, London and the University of Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne 1962-1963.
From the mid 1960s to the early 1970s Tilson was very much associated with the British Pop Art movement. He completed his first screenprint, Lufbery and Rickenbacker in 1963 with Chris Prater at Kelpra Studio. By the mid1960s Tilson had begun making a series of ‘three-dimensional’ prints, printed on plastic and incorporating collage and various elements. These were often based on ephemeral objects: a 21st birthday card or a book of matches he had picked up on an evening out in New York with Barnett Newman. The new materials of 1960s suggested different approaches to print making. Transparency, a set of five screenprints, was multi layered, printed on to acetate and metalized sheets and laid on paper and presented as hugely enlarged 35mm slides. By the end of the decade Tilson had become involved in anti-authoritarian politics producing a number of works featuring Ho Chi Minh, Malcolm X and Che Guevara. Working with Chris Prater at Kelpra Studio, London Tilson made many screenprints, adapting and stretching the medium to suit his requirements.
Out of Print British Printmaking 1946-1976, The British Council 1994
As is When A Boom in British Printmaking 1961-1972, The British Council 2003