Bill Jackson's new solo show "Cabinet of Curiosities" at The Front Room Gallery brings together three sets of work, "Head", "Imaginary People" and "Relics". Each project asks questions about the limitations of photography and specifically how the line between photography and other art forms, in particular sculpture, is being blurred in contemporary photographic practice
Bill's primary concern is to explore the idea of the photograph as an object, by turning the medium on its indexical head. In effect, subverting the idea that photography is by its nature documentary. Drawing his inspiration from his own museum of curios Bill re-presents his collection of artefacts and objects as new ideas constructed for the camera and so produces transformative moments that are expressed originally in each photograph.
"Imaginary People" uses a collection of paper dress patterns, re-fashioned to create illusory people. The paper skin is hauled up in front of the camera by hooks and threads and left to dangle and rustle in the slight breeze, finding its own shape and description of the human form. The paper appears to mask a solid shape, acting as both a set of clothes and the body itself. We begin to interpret a gesture of the arm, or curve of the leg, giving life to the illusion. But this is a transitory and ephemeral form; only set in place for the camera.
"Head" was first conceived as a continuation of his series "Imaginary People". Bill wanted to make a series of heads to go with his paper people. Using an old hatter's model he started to attach tissue paper with pins in an attempt to sculpt a head, forming the facial features with the paper. But it was at the end of the process, when taking the paper off the hatter's model that Bill discovered something much more interesting. It was the remaining pins that offered an illusion of a head and companions for his paper friends. Rummaging around in his boxes of curios he picked out other objects; bits of leather, bones, drawing pins, plasters, syringes. Playing with both verbal and visual puns, Bill created a humorous set of new friends including; skin head, leather head, pin head, plaster head.
For as long as he can remember Bill has collected things; old fire extinguishers, stuffed toys, abandoned hairdryers, porcelain figurines, odd bits of metal. Scavenged from the hedgerows and kerbsides; they are the flotsam and jetsam of modern life.
His studio in Suffolk is crammed full of his discovered treasures, each one carefully labelled and stored in his museum of curios. The artefacts filling the shelves and cupboards are random. Each object has been chosen on a whim, a response to colour or shape or texture and most importantly its potential to be remade and refashioned into something else. The third and most recent work "Relics" is a series of images of Bill's curios preserved by the camera as studies of his cabinet of curiosities.
As a final twist Bill presents each printed photograph in the exhibition as discreet objects themselves. "Imaginary People III", printed life size, is suspended from a giant coat hanger. "Head" is presented in etymology boxes, turning the print into a rare exotic creature preserved as an archaeological artefact. "Relics" is framed within two pieces of glass mimicking the idea of dissection slides.
"Cabinet of Curiosities" is the simultaneous celebration of the photograph as an object and Bill's own collection of random curios.
Bill Jackson first came to public attention when his dance pictures were selected for the exhibition "Fleeting Gestures, A History of Dance Photography" at The Photographers Gallery in 1980, shortly after graduating from Coventry School of Art. Over the next few years, Bill went on to exhibit widely, with a series of portraits of the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican in 1984 and a major project on workers at the Impressions Gallery, York, 1985. His work was also shown alongside Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn and Josef Sudek.
Moving away from the still image in 1986 Bill spent the next twenty years experimenting with film and computer graphics and began teaching photography, video and multimedia. During this time he was also Digital Artist in Residence at Compton Vernay Museum and Film Maker in Residence at The Royal Pump Rooms Gallery and Museum in Leamington Spa.
In 2006 he made a return to photography and print making and quickly re-established himself on the photography scene, winning Royal Photographic Society medals three years in a row for his prints and recognition by the Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, USA for his portraiture.
Cabinet of Curiosities: October 5th –30th November 2011
The Front Room
96 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3EA
020 7833 2330
Nearest Tube Stations: Kings Cross, Farringdon Road & Chancery Lane
For more information please contact Bridget or Michael on 020 7833 2330 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Press images available on request.