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Whitstable artist “drowned” in Margate

New installation causes big stir online

TWITTER STORM: The Jeremy Millar Drowned Man exhibit
TWITTER STORM: The Jeremy Millar Drowned Man exhibit

SELFIES by great artists through the centuries, including Sir Anthony van Dyck, John Constable, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol, are on show at the Turner Contemporary.

But it is Whitstable artist Jeremy Millar who has caused the greatest stir at the Margate gallery with a “dead body” exhibit. Called Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man (The Willows) the piece is a lifelike cast of the artists’ body which is covered in holes. The model is based on a story by chiller-writer Algernon Blackwood, and a hoax photograph by Hyppolyte Bayard, a 19th-century pioneer of photography who faked suicide.

Lying on the floor of the Turner gallery it surprised visitors who took to Twitter to talk of the ‘stunning’ exhibit. Meg of Margate Blog posted: “Current favourite is Jeremy MUlars Self Portrait as a Drowned Man,” while @Cycleforcurry said: “@TCMargate #self you can have a body of Art but can a dead body be Art.” The Guardian also described the piece as “surprising work.”

Mr Millar is a tutor in art criticism at the Royal College of Art, London. His recent solo exhibitions include Whitstable Biennale; Chandelier, London; The Oblate, Southampton City Art Gallery (2013); Project Arts Centre, Dublin and the National Maritime Museum, London.

He also displayed in group exhibition Curiosity: Art and the Pleasure of Knowing at Turner Contemporary. Mr Millar, 44, said:

“Many of my artworks refer to other artworks, and so does this, an old horror story and an even older photograph. I had wanted to wanted to make a work inspired by the story, “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood, and in particular the drowned victim found at the end but wasn’t sure how I could do so. Then I remembered an old photograph from 1840, by Hippolyte Bayard, called Self Portrait as a Drowned Man and its title suggested how I should approach my work.

It wasn’t my intention to shock — it’s not something I’m particularly interested in — but I understand that some people might consider the work unpleasant. Of course, the greatest shock was mine alone, on seeing it for the first time — this is something which you never expect to see: yourself, dead.”

Self: Image and Identity looks at self- portraiture and how it has shifted through history.
The exhibition runs until May 10. Find out more at: turnercontemporary.org/exhibitions/self

Herne Bay Times, 28th Jan 2015

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