Luke Willis Thompson
23 June 2017 – 27 August 2017
Opening: Thursday 22 June

Chisenhale Gallery presents a new commission and the first solo exhibition in the UK by Luke Willis Thompson.

For his exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery, Thompson presents a portrait of Diamond Reynolds. In July 2016, 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. Reynolds’ video circulated widely online and amassed over six million views.

In November 2016, 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 and presented in the gallery as a single screen work.

Thompson’s exhibition continues Chisenhale Gallery’s programme for 2017-18, which includes major new commissions by artists Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, Maeve Brennan and Hannah Black. Through his work, Thompson raises questions around race, representation and the body as site of political enquiry, themes which recur throughout Chisenhale’s programme for 2017. As part of the commissioning process, a series of discursive events is programmed in collaboration with each artist and runs throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Thompson produced autoportrait with the support of Mhairi-Clare Fitzpatrick, Director of Photography; Miranda Langevin, Film and Lighting Technician; and Sara Cluggish, Project Liaison.

Luke Willis Thompson (b. 1988 Auckland) lives and works in London. Thompson often situates his work outside of the gallery, connecting audiences directly with his chosen social context. For his 2015 commission for the New Museum Triennial for example, Thompson worked with a cast of performers, or guides, who led visitors away from the museum to locations throughout New York City that resonate as sites of racial tension. Through his work, Thompson challenges expectations of the exhibition experience. Audience members often encounter an uneasy exchange with the work, and are invited to consider their own position in relation to Thompson’s subject matter, which raises questions around both personal and political agency.

Selected solo exhibitions include Cemetery of Uniforms and Liveries, Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin; Sucu Mate/Born Dead, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland; and Misadventure, IMA, Brisbane (all 2016). Recent group exhibitions include the São Paulo Biennale and Montréal Biennale (both 2016), Asia Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Museum, Queensland and Surround Audience, New Museum Triennial, New York (both 2015). Thompson was awarded the Walters’ Prize in 2014.

Luke Willis Thompson was the Chisenhale Gallery Create Residency artist (2016-17). Thompson’s portrait of Diamond Reynolds builds on research he has made throughout his residency period, which began with an exploration into the history of the riots in London in 1981 and 2011. Thompson’s new commission 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. For more information on Thompson’s residency please click here. 

Chisenhale Gallery Create Residency is an 18-month artists’ residency produced in collaboration with Create. The partnership with Create reflects mutual interests in commissioning artists to engage with Chisenhale Gallery’s location in east London and its varied social and cultural contexts. For the inaugural Chisenhale Gallery Create Residency (2012-14) artist Edward Thomasson worked with a group of performers from East London to produce two new works. Yuri Pattison was the Chisenhale Gallery Create Residency artist (2014-16), and produced a new work in response to East London’s Tech City.

Create exists to explore the ways artists can contribute to the lives of people in cities. As an organisation Create helps artists to connect more closely with communities through an ambitious programme of projects and their work is primarily focused on East London.

Luke Willis Thompson’s commission is produced in partnership with Create. With the support of Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa.

Lead Supporter: Shane Akeroyd.

Luke Willis Thompson’s exhibition is supported by the Jan Warburton Charitable Trust; David and Libby Richwhite; and Yana and Stephen Peel. With additional support from the Luke Willis Thompson Supporters Circle. With thanks to Stephanie Post; Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin / Cologne; Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland; and Specialist Film Projection Services UK.

Chisenhale Gallery’s Commissions Programme 2017 -19 is supported by the LUMA Foundation.

Chisenhale Gallery’s Curatorial Trainee Programme 2016 -18 is supported by Sirine and Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh.

Chisenhale Gallery’s Talks and Events Programme 2017 is supported by Helen Thorpe.

  • offsite
  • Saturday 24 June

    Luke Willis Thompson and Polly Staple, Director of Chisenhale Gallery, discuss Thompson’s new commission. To watch a recording of this event, please visit our Audio/Video page here.

    Thursday 17 August

    Tavia Nyong’o, Professor of African American Studies, American Studies and Theatre Studies at Yale University joins Luke Willis Thompson to discuss Thompson’s new commission. Nyong’o reflects on how image production, rather than providing evidence of antiblack violence leading to justice, seems to produce its own economies of suffering and degradation. To watch a recording of this event, please visit our Audio/Video page here.

    All events are free to attend, unless otherwise stated, but booking is strongly advised. Please visit or ask at the front desk to make a reservation.

    BSL interpretation for events at Chisenhale Gallery is available on request. Please contact for further information. Please be advised that two weeks’ notice is required in order to confirm an interpreter.

    Wednesday 9 August

    Luke Willis Thompson is joined by the Mile End Community Project –an organisation working with young people on film, art and media projects– to share their work and methods of production. This event forms part of Stop Play Record, a three-year programme for young people aged 16 - 24 years who are interested in experimental film. Click here to find out more about Stop Play Record and watch recent film commissions. This event is free to attend but booking is recommended. To reserve a place please visit our Eventbrite page here.   

    Thursday 3 August

    Eliel Jones, Exhibitions and Events Assistant at Chisenhale Gallery, gives an introduction to Luke Willis Thompson’s exhibition, autoportrait. Free to attend, no booking required.   

    Thursday 27 July

    Selected and introduced by Luke Willis Thompson, a screening of Portrait of Jason (Shirley Clarke, 1967) is presented in association with MUBI. Jason Holliday was a brilliant figure from the New York underground, rumoured to have sat for a Warhol screen test, which has since been lost. Clarke’s film, shot on 16mm black and white film, is composed of non-linear takes, in which Holliday, prompted by the director, recounts and performs episodes of his life for the camera. Thompson sees the strength of the film embodied in Holliday who, despite being exposed to a sense of racism and homophobia from Clarke and her crew, has an ability to evade being fixed by the set-up in one particular rendering. The result is an ambiguous exchange, one which questions who is really being portrayed and who is being undone by this filmed situation. MUBI is an online, curated cinema offering Chisenhale audiences a month free at: event is now fully booked. Spaces may become available on the door but entry cannot be guaranteed.

    Saturday 15 July

    Orit Gat responds to Luke Willis Thompson’s new commission, discussing the difference between photo, image and event, and reflecting on the anxiety of sharing online. Gat is a writer on contemporary art and digital culture and contributing editor of The White Review. To listen to a recording of this event, please visit our Audio/Video page here

    Saturday 15 July

    Peter Shand, Head of School, Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland, discusses Luke Willis Thompson’s new commission in relation to his wider practice. To listen to a recording of this event, please visit our Audio/Video page here

    Friday 30 June

    An early morning viewing of Luke Willis Thompson’s exhibition, autoportrait, with an introduction by Ellen Greig, Exhibitions and Events Curator at Chisenhale Gallery. Coffee and cakes are generously provided by the East End Women’s Institute. Free to attend, no booking required.

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