Off the Cape

Screen captures from Will Gill’s video “Cape Spear”.

Visual artist Will Gill makes his first foray into video at the Eastern Edge Gallery.

By David Keating.

On artist Will Gill’s first trip to Newfoundland in 1996—a holiday by himself in November driving around the Avalon Peninsula—he formed an almost instantaneous connection with the island where he would soon come to work and live.

“There was something about the people and place when I came here that seemed just perfect for the way I am, the way I like to live,” he says. “The temperament of the people, the generosity and so on. And it was that that made me think right away: this is it. I fell in love right away.”

Two months later Gill returned to begin an apprenticeship in the foundry of local sculptor Luben Boykov—an association that would continue for the next 11 years.

The move to Newfoundland for Gill was preceded by four years of University at Mount Allison in Sackville, New Brunswick and time spent after graduation in Halifax. Raised in Ottawa, the East Coast had a draw that continued to pull the artist further away from home.

“When I came over, this was totally a shot in the dark. Halifax wasn’t really the place for me, so I was still looking even further east,” he says.

Since settling in St. John’s, Gill has established himself as one of the province’s most respected contemporary artists. In 2004 and 2006 he was nominated for the prestigious Sobey Art Award, and received a Large Year Award from Visual Artists Newfoundland and Labrador (VANL) in 2006. He also holds to his credit multiple nominations for the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council’s ‘Artist of the Year’.

Thirteen years after that first trip, Gill’s long migration from Ottawa to the furthest reaches of the East Coast culminates in his new work, Cape Spear.

“There’s something magical about Newfoundland but something particularly magical, and raw [about Cape Spear,” says Gill. “I think maybe it’s to do with being so close to the ocean and so close to that borderline of danger and death. People get wiped off, or taken out once in a while there and that’s a total tragedy, but it’s not really that surprising. That’s what happens if you go down by the rocks.”

“Mother Nature can grab you. She’ll do it.”

Filmed on location at Cape Spear, Gill sees the video as a reflection on cycles and elements in nature, or the ‘overwhelming nature of nature’.

Cape Spear is Gill’s first exploration of video as a medium. While sculpture and painting continue as the mainstay of his work, he foresees more video projects in the future. Pressed to offer up interpretations for the piece, Gill resists the temptation to editorialize or contextualize the experience for the viewer.

“To try and explain something that I’ve made, I don’t like doing it… How much should be public. How much should be explained. How much should be kept secret. I think the magic in a lot of work is that there is an unknown and if you knew everything about everything… For some people, it’s the magic of not knowing that is the most important thing.”

Experience Will Gill’s Cape Spear at Eastern Edge Gallery until October 17th. Other upcoming Will Gill events include a joint installation with Annette Manning—Salt Concentrates—at A1C Gallery opening on September 11th.

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  1. doug · February 4, 2013

    I could be wrong but those screen captures look like Middle Cove.

  2. Joe Beuys Wannabe of Pleasant St. · February 4, 2013

    Looks like a squirt of shaving cream on top of a video screen grab! This chappy could not even answer Mr Keating when asked for an interpretation of the work! “To try and explain something that I’ve made, I don’t like doing it” Awwwwwwwww…really? The why give an interview in teh first place??? This is laughable coming from what one local writer once described as a “superstar” and we should be oh so lucky to have him in our company!!!

  3. Jennifer · February 4, 2013

    Dude, he’s talking about art, not a weekend carpentry project. Of course it’s acceptable for him not to want to explain it exactly.

  4. will gill · February 4, 2013

    Thanks Joe for your kind words.
    With regards to explaining ones work I don’t know of any art law that says work must be explained. I’d just as soon not. Thats why I make visual work and not novels. Mocking someone elses efforts is easy when
    you can hide behind anonymity.
    I read your comments regarding Craigs List. I happen to be from away, and have benefited from Arts Council support. Perhaps you could further explain why it is that people that were not born here should not receive arts council support? Or perhaps you could enlighten me as to the specific type of work that the Arts council should fund.
    I really could care less what you think about my work, but xenophobic attitudes piss me off.
    Have a good weekend.

  5. mikiki · February 4, 2013

    omg. will gill makes videos. now I’m up shit creek!
    will I wanna see it but I’m stuck in canada until it comes down!
    when I’m back this fall/winter?
    hope yer good. the stills look great.