From The Pillar 2015 – 2019 © Stephen Gill
In Autumn 2021 Arnolfini celebrates over thirty years of extraordinary practice from Bristol-born photographer Stephen Gill, drawing together new previously un-exhibited work, alongside works from other iconic series including Hackney Flowers, Buried, Talking to Ants, Night Procession, Pigeons, Coexistence and Coming up for Air. Also featuring the first UK presentation of images from award winning photographic series and book The Pillar, the exhibition will explore Gill’s rich sense of place, leading us through the flea markets and towpaths of Hackney Wick in London, to his current rural surroundings amidst the Swedish countryside.
Creating numerous distinct bodies of work, Gill – described as a ‘documentarist’, ‘anthropologist’ and ‘dazzling visual poet’ – has built his photographic career upon an ethos of experimentation. Eschewing a signature style in order to adapt both his creative and technical approach to the subject at hand, has led to alchemical ‘experiments’ including photographic burials, floral collage, in-camera photograms and submerging work within a watery world.
Informed by the artist’s own extensive and meticulously ordered archive, the exhibition provides a portal into Gill’s unique world, one in which the very constraints of photography are turned upon their head and strangely poeticised. Exploring this vast resource, artist proofs, original photo books and archival material, are displayed alongside prints, selected by the artist, highlighting the often unseen poetics of urban and rural environments.
Coming up for Air : Stephen Gill – A Retrospective is curated by Stephen Gill and Arnolfini’s Executive Director Gary Topp and forms part of Arnolfini’s 60th anniversary programme, celebrating its past, present and future, as well as the inaugural Bristol Photo Festival.
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About Stephen Gill
Stephen Gill (b. 1971 in Bristol, UK), became interested in photography in early childhood, thanks to his father, an interest in insects and an initial obsession with collecting bits of pond life to inspect under his microscope. As a child he enrolled on his first photography course at Bristol’s Watershed, photographing the streets and cityscapes around him.
Stephen’s photographs are held in various private and public collections and have also been exhibited at many international galleries and museums including London’s National Portrait Gallery, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Museum of London, Agnes B, Victoria Miro Gallery, Christophe Guye Gallery, Sprengel Museum, Tate, Centre National de l’audiovisual, Galerie Zur Stockeregg, Archive of Modern Conflict, Gun Gallery, The Photographers’ Gallery, Palais des Beaux Arts, Leighton House Museum, Haus Der Kunst and has had solo shows in festivals including – Recontres d’Arles, The Toronto photography festival, Festival Images – Vevey and PHotoEspaña.
Gill has self-published numerous award-winning photo books such as Invisible, Hackney Wick, Warming Down, A Series of Disappointments, Archaeology in Reverse, Hackney Flowers, Buried, Off Ground, Coming up for Air, B-Sides, Trinidad 44 Photographs, A Book of Birds, Outside In, Coexistence, Hackney Kisses, Pigeons, Best Before End, Talking to Ants, and most recently The Pillar, which won the Les Rencontres de la Photographie author book award.
To help you navigate your way around the exhibition, copies are available in the galleries, as well as for you to download below.
Take a wander around the Galleries to give you a taste of the exhibition.
All images by Lisa Whiting for Arnolfini. All rights reserved.
He has set us all the challenge to try to find which photographs these 15 details come from!