Will Gill – From The Lion’s Den
From The Lion’s Den
Christina Parker Gallery is pleased to announce From The Lion’s Den, a new exhibition of works by Will Gill. The exhibition runs from June 7 until June 29 and is accompanied by a catalogue that is available for purchase.
As an artist, I feel that part of my responsibility is to respond to the way I see things, here and now. In 2017 I spent the month of November doing just that, living and working on Fogo Island as part of a creative residency through Fogo Island Arts, an arm of the Shorefast Foundation. I was in the Tower Studio in Shoal Bay. Through painting, sculpture, and photography, this body of work looks at place, necessity, and inventiveness, among other things, in an effort to talk about renewal and cycles of change here and elsewhere.
Fogo Island really is a striking place. It can be ghostly and quiet, raging and beautiful — a standout example of a place looking for economic renewal based on the richness of its culture and landscape. I have been living in Newfoundland for twenty years and know by now that Newfoundlanders are, by nature, fiercely independent, resilient, and creative. These are all qualities formed by generations of having to make do with what is at hand, particularly in isolated communities. My residency came to mean many things to me, based on what I saw and experienced: it reminded me that renewal (in all forms) is important as we adapt to different circumstances in our lives and surroundings; that resourcefulness is paramount for survival; that mystery is a necessity for the imagination and a driving force for hope; and that stark contrasts and unity aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.
I made work wanting to touch on some of these things.
One of my first projects while there was to make my own charcoal to draw with. I collected local branches and discarded wood to turn to carbon in a paint tin in the studios’ wood stove; it made me feel connected to place in the simplest of ways. The drawings are primal responses to local architecture and boat building, and generations-old markings in the land like cart tracks and garden plots. Brightly coloured silk imagery was sewn to the surfaces of the canvases to set up stark contrasts in material, form, and subject matter. This layering was a way to talk about tradition marrying change.
The photographic series follows an unidentified trio on their journey to start over. The photographs were shot on the open ocean as well as in and around a cove called Lion’s Den, in a punt handmade on the island by Barr’d Islands boatbuilder Frank Combden. Lion’s Den is a sheltered cove which was once home to a community of fifty or so people and which was voluntarily resettled in the 1950s. The series is a vignette about the search for grounding, migration, and the unknown.
The sculpture Fantastic Stage is not a model of any particular stage but rather a visual tribute to the building of functional structures in and around the ocean. The creativity necessary to construct stages in unique and often challenging situations never ceases to fascinate and inspire me. There is beauty in their seeming haphazardness and strength in even the most vulnerable looking structures.
Immersion in isolated community life was a reminder that strength is built on tradition as well as the ability and willingness to adapt to change.
Generous funding for the publication was provided by ArtsNL and Christina Parker Gallery.
Funding for Will Gill’s Fogo Island Arts Residency was provided by Fogo Island Arts and Shorefast, with additional production support from the Canada Council for the Arts.
Will Gill earned a bachelor of fine arts degree with a focus on sculpture from Mount Allison University in 1991.
Gill has maintained a studio practice since graduation, evolving from solely sculptural exploration to a practice that encompasses painting, sculpture, photography, and video. His work is an ever-changing search for poetic connections in the world, with recent pursuits exploring aspects of solitude, resilience, and transcendence. He was named to the longlist of the Sobey Art Award in 2004 and 2006. Recent career highlights include a commission for a large-scale installation at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche (2012), an exhibition in a collateral event at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), participation in The Arctic Circle Artist Residency in Svalbard, Norway (2014), and a solo exhibition as part of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival in Toronto (2017). In summer 2017 he installed a site-specific sculpture in Maberly, Newfoundland, as part of the inaugural Bonavista Biennale. His work has been exhibited widely and is in many public, private, and corporate collections.
Gill lives and works in St John’s, Newfoundland.