Gillian Wearing was born in Birmingham, England in 1963. She studied at Chelsea School of Art, London, 1985-7 and Goldsmiths College, London, 1987-90. She won the BT Young Contemporaries Prize in 1993, the Turner Prize in 1997 and the Outreach Award at the Rencontres d’Arles Festival in 2005. Wearing lives and works in London.
Wearing’s work demonstrates a complex understanding of the alternately comic and tragic experiences of everyday life. She uses the techniques of documentary photography, film and television to frame the concerns, words and actions of ordinary people, often in everyday situations, slightly and often subtly displaced in context. This repositioning creates an uneasy sense in the viewer - it forces us to question our preconceptions in the face of the image Wearing presents to us.
Her ongoing concern with individualism within society is also present in Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say (1992-3). In this series, the artist asked random passers-by if they would agree to note down their thoughts on a piece of paper and to be photographed holding them. Contrary to social documentary photojournalism the artist attempts to actively involve her protagonists in order to challenge social stereotypes and assumptions. In Will Britain get through this recession?, a man expresses his concerns over how long it may take the for country’s economy to recover. Here Wearing gives an individual a platform for self-expression, and the result underlines her personal interest in social belonging. In the video piece Boytime (1996) a group of boys try to maintain the illusion of a group portrait. Gradually however, self-consciousness and boredom mounts and there are a series of sighs, irritated gestures or muttered complaints and curses at curious passers-by. The rigid pose begins to disintegrate. What had appeared as an urban tableau, silent but for the subdued sounds of a park or playground is transformed into an exercise in social observation, as we begin to form impressions of these four boys based on their response to the situation.
Wearing’s first solo exhibition was held at City Racing, London, 1993. Other selected solo exhibitions include: Kunsthaus Zurich, 1997; Serpentine Gallery, London, 2000; Fundación la Caixa, Madrid, 2001; Kunstverein Munchen, 2001; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2001; Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, 2004; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, 2004; Bloomberg Space, London, 2005; Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2006 and Confessions: Portraits, videos, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2009. She made her first feature length film Self Made in 2010, premiered at Cornerhouse, Manchester and the 54th London Film Festival.
Made in Britain Contemporary Art from the British Council Collection 1980-2010,China Federation of Literary and Art Circles Publishing Corporation 2010. ISBN 978-7-5059-7014-4.