Jeff Wall in October 2012. Photo by Greg Girard.
Jeff Wall at his 'Tableaux Pictures Photographs 1996 - 2013' exhibition preview at Kunsthaus on October 16, 2014 in Bregenz, Austria.
Jeff Wall (on the right) and Rudolf Sagmeister at Wall's 'Tableaux Pictures Photographs 1996 - 2013' exhibition at Kunsthaus on October 16, 2014 in Bregenz, Austria.
2329 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
The University of British Columbia where Jeff Wall received his Bachelor of Art and Master of Art degrees.
Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN, United Kingdom
The Courtauld Institute of Art where studied from 1970 to 1973.
Jeff Wall’s 'Dead Troops Talk' purchased at Christie's in New York York City for $3,666,500 in 2012.
Jeff Wall photographed by Kirsten de Graaf.
(The first collection of Wall's texts to be published in E...)
The first collection of Wall's texts to be published in English, the affordable volume includes selection of 14 essays and 23 interviews of the artist as well as 120 black-and-white illustrations for reference purposes
Jeff Wall discovered all the many-sidedness of art through the Abrams Art Book Series where he saw full-color monographs of Cézanne, Rembrandt, and other most influential artists. Soon, he began drawing and when he became sixteen, his father built him a kind of a studio in a backyard shed where he had a possibility to produce more large-scale works.
In 1964, Wall entered the University of British Columbia, Vancouver where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree four years later. In 1970, he completed his Master of Art in Art History with a thesis titled ‘Berlin Dada and the Notion of Context’. After, Wall did three years of post-graduate work at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Studying under T. J. Clark, he began a thesis on Marcel Duchamp which however remained unfinished.
At the beginning of his career in the early 1970s, Jeff Wall shifted from painting and experimented with such forms of conceptual art like film and photographs accompanied by text. Some of his works were featured on the 1970 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
After studying in London, Wall came back to Canada in 1973. He stopped to make art for a while just until the end of the decade when his first photo transparencies appeared. Many of these "cinematographic" and somehow documentary photos placed in backlit lightboxes to lay emphasis on their tiny elements and colors were focused on the history of art and philosophical issues of representation.
In 1974, the artist joined the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design where he taught till 1975 and then became an associate professor at Simon Fraser University serving in that capacity for twenty subsequent years. He also taught at the University of British Columbia until 1999.
The first solo exhibitions of Wall after a pause which presented him as an installation artist was organized in 1978 at the Nova Gallery. The main subjects of his photographs of the period were still everyday scenes which reflected social tension, suburbs, and inhabitant areas.
In the 1990s, Jeff Wall abandoned the everyday genre and concentrated more on still lives and landscapes taking inspiration from the different painting traditions. The theoretical subtext of his pictures seeded a place for an aesthetic side. The artist applied digital technology to produce a new single photograph from several negatives. In 1995, Wall started to work with traditional silver gelatin black and white photographs which occupied the important place among his creations.
Nowadays, the artist lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. He creates only a few works a year because each work requires some days to be finished and the production costs are very high.
As an accomplished writer, Jeff Wall has authored many influential essays on modern artists, including Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Roy Arden, Ken Lum, aesthetic and philosophical questions as well as on conceptual art and its role in the development of photography. The significant part of his writings is collected in his 2007 book ‘Jeff Wall: Selected Essays and Interviews’.
During his career, Wall has regularly exhibited in Canada and abroad, including the shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitechapel Gallery and Tate Modern in London, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, Ireland, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany, Tamayo Museum in Mexico City, and the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels where he had a retrospective in 2011. One of the recent solo exhibitions of the artist is a 2019 show at Gagosian art gallery in New York City.
(The first collection of Wall's texts to be published in E...)2007
The Destroyed Room
Picture for Women
A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai)
Poppies in a Garden
Hillside near Ragusa
Peas and Sauce
Shapes on a Tree
Mother of pearl
Young man wet with rain
Figures on a Sidewalk
Jeff Wall initially chose his subjects arbitrarily, as Wall explains, generally "invisible things that fascinate as soon as you pay attention to them." Taken with a large-format camera, the pictures are carefully composed and pin-sharp, but on a closer look their brilliant beauty often turns out to be illusory. Wall focuses principally on urban and suburban scenes in and around Vancouver, with their social inequalities and conflicts, showing poverty, unemployment, prostitution, black marketing and drug dealing, and unspectacular backwaters as symbols of human exploitation and destructiveness.
"The relationship of photography to cinema and painting has always been the important thing for me."
"Not photographing gives me imaginative freedom that is crucial to the making of art. That, in fact, is what art is about – the freedom to do what we want."
"Like painting, my work is very much about composition. That is where the feeling flows - more so than in the expressions on faces or the possible social meanings. But I am not trying to imitate painting. In fact, my pictures are as close to Robert Frank or Paul Strand as they are to painting or cinema. But people seem to choose not to see that."
"I find my observations interesting. Maybe that's why I'm a photographer. Maybe an observation is an experience that means more to you than other experiences."
"Photography is supposed to be instantaneous. The plasticity of the process, where things turn into something else, comes from the time I spend on it."
"Just as in the cinema you wouldn't think that a realistic film is any less filmic than a musical fantasy. They're both part of the cinema. And I see that this is the same in my work, they are different genres that I am interested in and I move between them."
"I saw something else in photography, something to do with scale, with color and with construction, which might be valid along with the more established values that had come down from the 19th century and had been extended by the great photographers of the 20th century."
"I wasn't studying art history; I was studying myself."
Jeff Wall became a member of the Royal Society of Canada in 2006.
Quotes from others about the person
"He [Wall] worked against the grain to develop the photographic genre into areas that it had utterly rejected or ignored. Globally, he has really affected the way people see the world through the lens." Sheena Wagstaff, art curator
"When Jeff's pictures succeed, they succeed in a way that nobody else's do - it's a kind of art that no one else practices." Peter Galassi, art curator
Jeff Wall is married to a woman named Jeannette. He met his future spouse in the early 1970s while studying at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.