Art Review: Gillian Wearing @ Whitechapel Gallery

Gillian Wearing’s photographs and videos focus on people and the emotions and experiences from their recent pasts and childhood memories.

The photographs are the least impressive of Wearing’s works. Asking strangers to write their innermost thoughts on a piece of card feels unnatural as it’s obvious that the subjects have tried to come up with something humorous or profound, thus missing the point entirely.

However, the video art is both insightful and harrowing. The re-enactment of one man’s experience of being bullied as a child is so intense that you may find it difficult to watch.

On a lighter note, the artist dancing in a shopping centre in the absence of music is mildly amusing. Only when you’ve watched it for a few minutes do you realise that the focus of the video is not the artist but the shoppers who all avert their gazes as they walk by and try to ignore this bizarre performance.

A final highlight is the confessional huts where persons behind masks reveal their darkest secrets and traumatic experiences. The enclosed space gives you the feeling of being their confidante, which can be difficult to listen to as some of these individuals or their abusers come across as detestable.

This is an emotionally charged and brilliant exhibition.  The intensity may take its toll on you, but you’ll walk out with a renewed appreciation for the happier experiences in life.

Gillian Wearing is on display at Whitechapel Gallery until 17 June. Tickets are £8.50, £6.50 for concessions.

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