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Gillian Wearing: Self Portrait at 17 Years Old, 2003. Framed c-type print. 115.5 x 92cm © the artist. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

Art: Gillian Wearing at Whitechapel Gallery

This exhibition, Gillian Wearing’s first major international survey show, is great. Wearing, one of the original YBA’s, who won the Turner prize in 1997, is such a clever artist, and her work is executed fantastically well. Her best pieces stick in your head – think of her photograph of a city worker in 1992-3 holding a sign saying ‘I’m Desperate’ – and add to your store of knowledge about the way our private selves prompt us to behave in public. Nor is this a show you have to muster interest for: the pieces, which are films and photographs, grab your attention instantly. The first piece you see is Wearing’s Dancing in Peckham, 1994, a film which shows the artist dancing in a shopping mall to a soundtrack only she can hear. It’s the perfect introduction to the show. Like all Wearing’s work, it is compelling and watchable; a private moment made public without any apparent self consciousness, and it simply and firmly feels true rather than ‘made’ or contrived, even though of course that’s what it is. Plus, Wearing’s dancing is both good and a bit mad, and that makes entertaining viewing. Her famous film piece, 10 – 16, 1997,  is here, and as strong as ever. What you hear are children aged between ten and sixteen talking about their anxieties, but on screen you watch adults (perfectly cast), talking in the children’s voices. It is a powerful and affecting piece. Upstairs are more films, plus Wearing’s photographic work, including her 1992-3 series Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say (including ‘I’m Desperate’), as well as her more recent self portraits. This, though a comprehensive show, doesn’t feel too big or exhausting. We loved it. Do not miss.

What:
Gillian Wearing exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery
When:
Till 17 June, 2012. Gallery open: Tues - Sun: 11am - 6pm and till 9pm on Thurs & Fridays
Where:
Whitechapel Gallery, 77 - 82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX
Price:
£6.50 - £9.50
Tel:
020 7522 7888
— Daisy
29th March 2012