A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai). Jeff Wall 1993

This post is a brief response and reflection to watching the documentary film Jeff Wall: Retrospective (2016), where the artist discusses the related exhibition at New York’s MOMA.

Wall has consistently been an influence on my MA project practice and approach. His crossing of the boundary between what is fact and what is a ‘version’ of reality appeals to me.  This approach relates to the core aesthetic drive where I am seeking to symbiotically support the theme of the work by exploring the liminal space between what is real and what is fictive. 

Wall also broaches the influence of other media (cinema etc) on his work: ‘I saw that work as artwork, like paintings, or drawings or theatre… So that’s why I started to see my work as a form of cinematography. Photography formed by the capacities of the cinema, by the way film makers could collaborate with designers, makers of things, performers etc.’ In this I believe Wall draws on something archetypal in his work: the storyteller as truth-teller or soothsayer.

UNTITLED (from 50.1022° N, 18.5463° E sequence). James Bellorini 2020.

So, much of Wall’s discussion returns me to my own influences and experiences. And this is good.

I share a motivational and attitudinal similarity with the wider context of Wall’s awareness of the performative within painting and cinema. Especially those that are held within my own aesthetic muscle memory as exemplified in the practices I have learnt and experienced directly, and which have embedded themselves in me bodily via the nervous system: painting, theatre, performance, improvisation. These combine to form my personal ‘supra-real window’ – looking for a reality by ‘going beyond’. 

What does that mean in practice?

I prioritise both the surface exploration of the moment and what is occurring under that surface. The garnered sub-text or psychology. Frequently that is what might be considered ‘energy’ within the photograph. A restlessness to arrest, reinvent and dissect. This is related to paintings of course. But it is also a way to discover psychological or experiential resonances and truths through the element of chance inherent in performative interventions. Something that is happening with shocking regularity in my own practice at the moment. And here, I believe, is where I connect with some of what Wall has set out to explore and achieve. Even though our aesthetic output is markedly different.



Jeff Wall: Retrospective. (2016). [Online]. Directed by Michael Blackwood. New York: Michael Blackwood Productions. [Viewed on 15th July 2020]. Available from Kanopy.