Contact Photo Festival: A Foundation of Ash Q&A Pt 1

Will poster for website.jpg

April 17-May 13

Opening Reception April 27 6pm-pm


For his first exhibition as part of Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, St John’s based artist Will Gill travelled to wildfire locations in Canada to capture the aftermath of the events. Through staged photography, using props and the charred remains of the environment as backdrop, Gill explores aspects of darkness and hope, transcendence and the human condition.


Q: You have a varied creative practice, could you talk a little bit about your background?

A: Photography is only a portion of what I do. I am interested in many different approaches to creativity and art making. I was born in Ottawa in 1968 and later graduated from Mount Allison University in NB in 1991 with a degree in Fine Arts, majoring in sculpture and printmaking. Sculpture is something I am passionate about and make in intermittent stretches. It has since found its way into my photographic works – more on that later. I took some photography courses while at university and fondly remember processing film and images in the darkroom where time seemed to stand still. Fast forward to the late 90’s when I moved to St John’s NL to work as a technician at a bronze casting foundry. I rented studios and began to paint, make sculpture and live action artworks in the landscape. I currently work as a technician at the provincial art gallery, which allows me to interact with artists and a great variety of artwork. Newfoundland is my home and inspiration on many levels.


Q: When did you become interested in photography? 

A: I have been interested in photography for many years but began making photographs that were standalone artworks in about 2008. It was really out of necessity. There were several ephemeral time-based / live action artworks that I was creating at the time that I wanted to document so that they could live on. That was the perfect time to justify the purchase of a decent camera and lens. Following that I did an artist residency in the Norwegian arctic in 2014 and created photo based works that incorporated the extraordinary surroundings and some sculptural props that I brought with me. That was a formative experience that made me realize that photography was an ideal way to integrate my interests in sculpture, painting, performance and surroundings in one medium. This current body of work builds on that.


Q: Looking through some of you previous photographic work, it seems that light and darkness are integral to your interests as an artist. Where does that come from?

A: I have always loved stark contrast and feel that there is a vibrant element to opposites in art and life in general that is so rich. I am drawn to darker aspects of life because it makes it easier to see the good I guess. I have experimented with light reflecting off of things and light emanating from things through artificial means. The Newfoundland winter is very long and grey and so light is something that I crave and therefore work with on a regular basis.


Will Gill earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Mount Allison University in 1991, with a focus on sculpture.

Gill has maintained a studio practice since graduation, evolving from solely sculptural exploration, to a practice that encompasses painting, sculpture, photography and video work. He was named to the long-list of the Canadian Sobey Art Award in the 2004 and 2006 competitions. Career highlights include a commission for a large-scale water installation at Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (2012), participation in a two-person collateral exhibition at The 55th Venice Biennale (2013) and a three-week residency aboard a three masted barquentine out of Svalbard Norway in 2014. He will be participating in a month-long residency on Fogo Island in the fall of 2017.

He lives and works in St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.