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Born in 1988 in Auckland, New Zealand, Fijian-New Zealand artist Luke Willis Thomspon lives and works in London. Across film, performance and installation, Thompson's artworks are concerned with social injustice, often in the form of the mistreatment of minority communities and historical trauma.

Luke Willis Thompson autoportrait Chisenhale Gallery 2017.jpeg


Luke Willis Thompson
22 June – 27 August 2017

Chisenhale Gallery commissions and produces contemporary art, supporting international and UK-based artists to pursue new directions and make their most ambitious work to date. For audiences, the gallery provides opportunities to experience this process of art production through participation and critical reflection.

Chisenhale Gallery has an award winning, 35-year history as one of London’s most innovative forums for contemporary art. With a reputation for identifying new talent, the gallery is committed to engaging diverse audiences with a particular focus on young people. Chisenhale Gallery operates alternately as a production agency, exhibition hall, research centre and community resource.

In June 2017, Chisenhale Gallery presented a major new commission and the first solo exhibition in a UK institution by Luke Willis Thompson. For his exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery, Thompson presented a filmed portrait of Diamond Reynolds.

In July 2016, Diamond Reynolds broadcast, via Facebook Live, the moments immediately after the fatal shooting of her partner, Philando Castile, by a police officer during a traffic-stop in Minnesota, United States. With the assistance of Chisenhale Gallery, Thompson established a conversation with Reynolds, and her lawyer, and invited Reynolds to work with him on the production of an artwork. Thompson proposed to make an aesthetic response that could act as a ‘sister-image’ to Reynolds’ video broadcast. Thompson and Reynolds agreed to produce a film together, to be presented in London, and which would break with the well-known image of Reynolds, caught in a moment of violence and distributed within a constant flow of news.

The final work was produced in April 2017. It is a silent portrait of Reynolds shot on 35mm, black and white film. It was presented at Chisenhale Gallery as a single screen work.

As part of the commissioning process, a series of discursive events was devised in collaboration Thompson and ran throughout the duration of his exhibition, providing opportunities for audiences to discuss questions and ideas raised by the work. This series of events included a conversation between Thompson and Polly Staple, Director at Chisenhale Gallery; a talk by Peter Shand, Head of School, Elam School of Fine Art, The University of Auckland, on Thompson’s wider practice; a talk by writer Orit Gat on the difference between photo, image and event and reflecting on the anxiety of sharing online; and a conversation between Thompson and Tavia Nyong’o, Professor of African American Studies, American Studies and Theatre Studies at Yale University. Recordings of the talks can be found on the Audio / Video section of Chisenhale Gallery’s website here.

Luke Willis Thompson was the Chisenhale Gallery Create Residency artist (2016 -17). Thompson’s portrait of Reynolds builds on research made throughout the residency period, which began with an exploration into the history of the riots in London in 1981 and 2011. Thompson’s commission with Chisenhale Gallery reflects his ongoing enquiry into questions of race, class and social inequality. In his recent moving image work, Cemetery of Uniforms and Liveries (2016) also produced during the Chisenhale Gallery Create Residency, Thompson created filmed portraits of two young men from London whose maternal relatives were victims of police brutality.

The Chisenhale Gallery Create Residency is an 18-month artist project that is produced in partnership with Create. Create exists to connect artists with communities, explore the ways artists contribute to the lives of people in east London and beyond. Create helps strengthen connections between local people, creative practitioners, and cultural organisations, through an ambitious programme of projects. Through the Chisenhale Gallery Create Residency, both UK-based and international artists are given the opportunity to develop new work in response to Chisenhale Gallery’s location in East London, and its rich social and cultural context.



Luke Willis Thompson was able to make a new work, How Long? for his solo exhibition at Adam Art Gallery. This entailed travelling to Fiji to make filmed portraits of four individuals all of whom had surnames given to them that recalled the military service family members had undertaken in strife-ridden war zones like Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. The footage was transferred to video and projected on the tall narrow end wall of the gallery to powerfully engage visitors as they navigated the darkened space. How Long? was shown with two other film works: autoportrait and Cemetery of Liveries and Uniforms. This astonishing installation was a prelude to Luke’s nomination for Tate Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize.

Luke Willis Thompson: Projects
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