Keith Arnatt (1930-2008) is best known for his conceptual photographic work from the late 1960s and early 70s and his subsequent documentary photography of people and objects in the landscape, but this exhibition shows that his artistic roots are also firmly grounded in sculpture. Through his preoccupations with the box, body and burial in the early part of his career, Arnatt challenged sculptural convention long before he was seen as a photographer.

One of Arnatt’s best known works – Trouser-Word Piece from 1972 – shows the artist wearing a placard bearing the provocative statement ‘I’m a Real Artist’. Another key work from his early career entitled Self Burial sees Arnatt gradually sinking into the ground in a series of sequential photographs. These works, presented in the exhibition along with a number of fascinating, lesser-known drawings and photographic documentation, highlight the sculptural dimension of Arnatt’s thinking during the early part of his career. From his fabrication of minimalist boxes to his creation of cubic holes in the ground, from his hiding and revealing of the body in space to his manipulation of natural and man-made materials in the rural environment, all these works reveal a sculptural imagination which clearly informed Arnatt’s photographic, conceptual practice in the mid-1960s and beyond.

Arnatt’s recent 2007 retrospective at the Photographer’s Gallery, entitled I’m a Real Photographer: Keith Arnatt Photographs 1974-2002 focused on his photography and his post-1974 work. In many ways it is not surprising that this should be the case, since Arnatt himself has always been an articulate advocate of photography and fought to have it regarded on the same level as other arts, such as painting and sculpture. As an artist, Arnatt has always to some extent defied categorisation and this exhibition blurs the boundaries even further by suggesting that Arnatt is not only ‘a real artist’ and ‘a real photographer’, but also ‘a real sculptor’.

It is with great sadness that we report that Keith Arnatt died on 19th December 2008.