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John Hilliard
  • Artist (1945)

John Hilliard (born in 1945 in Lancaster, England) exhibited his first works as soon as he left the St. Martins School of Fine Art in London, in 1967 where he studied sculpture.  Those works sought to highlight the relations existing between sculpture and photography:  765 balles de papier/765 Balls of Paper was, for example, an installation made with the intention of photographing it.  In 1970, Hilliard devoted himself exclusively to photography and dealt with the issues of the actual mechanisms of the medium in order to question “the potential for manipulation within the limits of the photographic tool itself”.  The sensitivity of the film (Douze representations du blanc/Twelve Representatons of White, 1972), focusing (In Black-And-White-And-Colour, 2007), framing (Cause of Death, 1974), shutter speed, the movement of the camera (Arrested Curve/Curve Arrested, 1979), light and colour, all underpin the critical and conceptual nature of his work.  This is oriented entirely towards an analysis of the complex relations between the reality of the photograph and the illusion of the image.  Without ever using the materials peculiar to painting, he nevertheless borrows from it two of its great themes, both existential and classical: death and eroticism.  He includes his photographic experience within the extension of the “Vanitas”, where the aspiration to life and beauty is mixed with the awareness of a fragility and a decline of all things.  In the 1980s, he juxtaposed two images of one and the same subject which were however treated differently.  Based on this relationship of the double, similar to that of the mirror, the two works acquired by the FRAC Centre are the result of a commission about the landscape of the Centre region.   West and Shadow juxtapose two views, one positive, the other negative.  Because of the diptych-like way in which these two images work, the phenomenon of reflection of things in each other increases.  Later, the use of a procedure based on fiber optics, accentuating certain colour contrasts, and the contrasts of light and shadow liken Hilliard’s works to film noir with its cold and mysterious ambiences (Acte de vol, 1986; Confusion, 1997).  Hilliard’s oeuvre, which has been exhibited in many parts of Europe, has been shown in major exhibitions across the world.

Nadine Labedade