Artist Gillian Wearing has spent two decades finding the uncanny in the mundane. Her early inclusion in the Royal Academy’s 1997 Sensation! exhibit – the explosive public debut for Charles Saatchi’s collection of contemporary British art - meant that she became intertwined with the Young British Artist (YBA) pack, an association that was somehow solidified when she secured a Turner Prize in 1997.
But there’s always been something bold about Wearing, now an OBE, as a committed student of human behaviour and their public personae. For example, in this exhibition at Maureen Paley – Bethnal Green’s long representative of Wearing – she returns to her West Midlands roots with a video work called ‘We Are Here’, a wide-ranging work for which she extensively interviewed people in her home area of Sandwell. Inspired by American poet Edgar Lee Masters' 1915 book Spoon River Anthology, in which local biographies are translated into lush poetry, Wearing presents a series of filmed monologues from local people with the artist as their medium, so to speak.
It could be seen as a mid-life return to her roots for the Birmingham-born artist. Equally, it’s another stage in Wearing’s need to explore the strange intimacy of ‘ordinary’ lives. This has had many precursors in her earlier works such as Gillian Wearing’s ‘Signs that say what you want them to say', the famous 1992 series of photographs where she invited strangers to write confessional messages on paper and hold them up to the camera. In the most famous of these images a suited, young man wrote “I am desperate”, capturing a mood that, on occasion, befalls us all.
So this latest work continues Wearing's two-decade discussion on the differences between the public and private spheres, informed by reality television and the curiosity of public exposure. If you saw Wearing’s mid-career retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, you’ll want to catch up; if you’re new to her work, then plunge in; and if you’re anywhere near Wearing’s home town, go and see her public sculpture ‘A Real Birmingham Family’ in Birmingham’s Centenary Square from 30th October.
|What||Gillian Wearing, Maureen Paley|
|Where||Maureen Paley, 21 Herald Street , London , E2 6JT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Bethnal Green (underground)|
13 Oct 14 – 16 Nov 14, 12:00 AM – 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here for more information|