Artist and critic William Corwin provides an excellent interview for Brooklyn Rail with Gillian Wearing straight off the heels of her retrospective this summer in London’s Whitechapel Gallery . Wearing burst onto the scene in the late 1990s as part of Charles Saatchi’s YBAs in the show Sensation. Like fellow female YBA’s Tracy Emin, Sarah Lucas, and Abigail Lane, Wearing’s work incorporated photographic imagery as well as personal details which were often presented in a unique fashion. Wearing, a self described introvert focused her attention on individuals, specifically their mannerisms and secrets in many cases creating intimate human studies similar to those of French artist Sophie Calle. Also included are Wearing’s photographic self portraits of her donning masks which add a layer of subtlety which differs from the work of some of her more extroverted contemporoaries such as Yasumasa Morimura, Cindy Sherman, and fellow YBAer Sam Taylor-Wood.
In their interview, Corwin talks with Wearing about the influences upon her work by American artists Andy Warhol and Diane Arbus as well as German photographer August Sander. They also talk about Wearing’s work Signs… as a precedent to reality TV to which Wearing responds,
Yeah, the world’s changed from when I did the signs. If I did them now, maybe they’d get different reactions, I don’t know. Saying that, when I first did them I was surprised how open people were in contrast to what everyone said about people never telling you anything about themselves, particularly in Great Britain. I found people to be incredibly open and I think the signs are a good way of saying the media only represents a very small portion of the population. When you go out there, there are much more interesting things to be said and heard but they don’t make the TV or the printed media because people haven’t found a way to find those voices yet. I think what happened with reality television is that it’s invited, at least in the very early stages anyway, people that you hadn’t necessarily seen represented on TV before. Of course now with a lot of TV programs, they find who the ideal person would be for reality television and they are normally quite extroverted and even exhibitionist. But in the very early stages, which I thought were really brilliant, particularly things like Big Brother, the people who came forward saw it as something that was an experiment. They were interested in what they could get out of, not realizing there could be a media career for themselves afterwards.
Gillian Wearing 2012 September 8 – 2013 January 6 at K20 Kunsthalle in Dusseldorf