Photo credits / info
The Highstreet SW11 1982-83
MEDIA: 8 dioramas
These dioramas represent the pre-gentrified area of SW11 in London where interior spaces retained a forlorn, seedy ambience and whose multiple histories were still clearly visible. Unselfconscious architecture with a make do and mend philosophy.
Each unit evokes a specific interior, carefully lit and built using false perspective. Views into the cellars reveal narrative subplots.
Visiting New York and producing the large-scale multi-media piece “Ground Zero” had unlocked a way for Jake to make work that expressed what he thought about cities, driven by unspecified narratives, politics and acute observations of the smallest details of interiors and streetscapes. Rather than looking abroad for his next project Tilson focused on where he lived. Tilson’s previous work about London had been paintings inspired by the novels of JG Ballard, producing remote images of tower blocks and sodium-orange lit interiors. Jake had been a print assistant to the sculptor Barry Flanagan which had involved helping out with a series of evening talks/meetings at the Museum Tavern opposite the British Museum – the overall theme was dioramas.

From an email Jake wrote to Dr Andrew Wilson when he was curating an exhibition of Barry Flanagan at the Tate in 2011.

“I attended all of the diorama meetings at the room upstairs in the Museum Tavern. The assembled people would sit at tables arranged around the room. I also talked to Barry about dioramas in his studio, I remember them from my youth at the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington.
I have a reference to the diorama group in a sketchbook dated 1977, that refers to the talk given by David Plante about the representation of space in novels. I don't have any dates for the events themselves although they were probably in 1978. I also remember the Fluck and Law talk. My father didn't attend these meetings - but he did go to the large organised group meetings which Barry held at the London Zoo a few years earlier.
I continued the diorama work and actually produced a series of large-scale dioramas which were in my Royal College of Art degree show, which Barry saw. I set up a fake business name for this - the SW11 Diorama Co.”

Jake Tilson, 2011

The original impetus for Jake to create collages in 1977 had been prompted not by art but by literature, by the writings of William Burroughs, JG Ballard and Punk culture. At college one of the visiting lectures was given by Joseph Cornell’s assistant, who projected some of Cornell’s original films during the talk, probably at the time of the Cornell exhibition at the Whitechapel in 1981. Although Tilson was influenced by Joseph Cornell and Ed and Nancy Kienholz it was the films Bladerunner and Alien by Ridley Scott that had the biggest impact on him during the making of The Highstreet. The back of the dioramas had large Japanese adverts of them and the Burger Machine head was constructed like a spaceship. Tilson used fibre optic cables to light objects in the dioramas, learnt from reading technical magazines about the making of the films.
Looking at these works today it may seem unremarkable that these works might be produced in a painting department of an art school but in 1983 all of his contemporaries in the department were producing paintings. That said he never referred to himself as a sculptor, his view was that they came from the mentality of being a painter, influenced as much by Piero della Francesca and Edward Hopper.

Jake Tilson's The Highstreet Sw11, is an ambitious street scene of eight dioramas of fantastic shops and weird places.
Marina Vaizey,
A Deep Draught of New British Art,
Sunday Times Review, May 1983

Poster designed by Jake

Royal College Painting Degree Show
1988, E
xhibition Road 150 Years, Royal College of Art.

New British Art, Marina Vaizey, Sunday Times, May.
High St SW11, Nicola Gooch, South Western Star, April 29.

Visions, 50 Years of British Creativity, Thames & Hudson. 1988 Exhibition Road, 150 Years RCA Painting, Phaidon.
Jake Tilson, Investigations in Cities 1977-1997, MIDE, Cuenca
Jake Tilson, Art Random, Kyoto Shoin International, Japan

Unilever Prize, RCA and the
Hugh Dunn Award,RCA
Major Travelling scholarship, RCA


AK Patel General Store

mixed media diorama
230 x 76 x 61 cm. Private collection

Unit 44
mixed media diorama
221 x 76 x 61 cm. Artists collection

Curry Palace
mixed media diorama
221 x 76 x 61 cm. Artists collection

House Clearances
mixed media diorama
221 x 76 x 61 cm. Private collection

Burger Machine & Murder Mystery
Mixed media diorama
221 x 94 x 61 cm

Mixed media diorama
251 x 76 x 61 cm

EastWind Tekway
Mixed media diorama
271 x 76 x 61 cm

Box 3 Unemployment Benefit Office Mixed media diorama
221 x 76 x 61 cm