Mr. Tilbrook is a Hong Kong artist who has been giving visual expression to the city for over half a century.
When he arrived in Hong Kong in 1965, the British-born artist was immediately seduced by the vividly colourful city which has remained an inspiration for much of his work, from his lively semi-abstracts to evocative paintings of scenery in the New Territories.
His paintings can be seen to capture the sometime explosive political emotion of the moment, tempered by the assurance and positivity of one who has witnessed the vicissitudes of history, as expressed in one of his recent works, Triumph (2018). The apparent chaos in his work is often countered by the use of a number of recurring Chinese characters: peace and quiet, for example. The artist says he likes them for their emotional appeal as well as their architecturally satisfying quality.
The earliest work in the exhibition is Ruins of St. Paul's (1948), a painting in realistic style that captures the bombed ruins he saw on the edge of the London cathedral at the conclusion of the second world war. Two decades later, Mr. Tilbrook and his wife, Moyreen, moved from Malaysia to Hong Kong where they were caught up in the 1966/67 riots, and his first exhibition at the newly opened City Hall reflected the turmoil. During that time, the Tilbrooks began travelling extensively around Asia and this exhibition contains two paintings of Angkor Wat as it was at the end of the 1960s.
Mr. Tilbrook’s work as an experimental artist and stage designer has traversed, and been informed by, the fundamental changes that Hong Kong has experienced over the past five decades. Before Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, he was commissioned by General Sir John Archer for the last painting of Flagstaff House before it ceased to be the residence of the Commander of British Forces. The painting now sits in the Ministry of Defence in London. Post 1997, the appreciation and patronage of his art has expanded across the region, with major Asian collectors acquiring his more recent paintings in Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong itself, including the Hong Kong Museum of Art which has four of Mr. Tilbrook’s paintings in its permanent collection.
His art has been, and continues to be, seen by many in major buildings such as the Hong Kong Club, where his painting of Hong Kong’s historic waterfront spans the entire width of the building. His large murals also dominate the walkway between Conrad Hotel and the Island Shangri-la Hotel in Admiralty.
About the artist
Brian Tilbrook (b. 1932, Middlesex, UK)
A graduate of London's Ealing College of Art (1953), Brian Tilbrook first came to Asia in the early 1960s through military postings to Japan, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. His first professional exhibition was in 1963 in Kuala Lumpur sponsored by the Arts Council and the British Council. Since 1965, he has worked as a designer, artist and teacher in Hong Kong and has had many one-man shows and taken part in group displays for special events including the opening of the Hong Kong Arts Centre and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Mr. Tilbrook was one of the first artists to have a solo show at the Low Block Exhibition Hall of Hong Kong City Hall in 1968.
In 1989, the Hong Kong government commissioned 50 paintings to focus public attention on the city’s heritage through a touring exhibition and a book produced by the Government Information Services. There are paintings and murals in various cities and private collections around the world and in the permanent collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. He was also the art consultant to the English Schools Foundation for many years. Mr. Tilbrook has also been a prolific stage designer, having produced over 100 sets since 1965 and for a long time was the main designer for the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre. He is married with three children, four grandchildren and lives, paints and designs on Lamma Island, Hong Kong.