We argue that the recent performance and video art of Newfoundland-based artist Will Gill enacts a narrative of light projected into darkness which opens onto place: the forces within a space which struggle to define a place. Cape Spear is the work that began a series in which Gill articulates a struggle between light and darkness – marking isolation and community, confidence and turmoil, life and death – that not only narrate how one lives on an island but how one carves out a space of living with the brutality of the natural world. Gill’s work consists of projecting spheres of light into the ocean, sending illuminated arrows of fire into rock and water, and illuminating the haunting detritus that glows from the ocean beds of Newfoundland. This work is kinetic, in that uses lit projections to enact the anxiety, violence, communality and spontaneity that characterizes northern island life. Similarly, Gill’s work intertwines natural elements – such as water, wind, and wood – with industrial and tooled elements, such as marine equipment, flares, and fibreglass. In this way, his art enquires into how the interrelational, multi-sensory and indeterminate acts of projecting isolated moments of light into the often raging darkness of the North Atlantic coastline opens a new relation to the environment, both materially and metaphorically. Will Gill will present his recent works in light and landscape; Jennifer Dyer will critically analyze these works in terms of the larger theme of light as the “space of transformation” or the medium of movement that enacts a new way of engaging with the non-human world of the natural environment. Dyer will argue that Gill takes up the use of light as a vitalist-materialist force in the recent narratives of light-use in Newfoundland art-making.
Jennifer Dyer is Associate Professor of Communications Studies and Directors of the Interdisciplinary PhD Program and the Humanities Graduate Program at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She has written on the metaphysical theme of repetition in modernist and new media visual art, new media and the female nude, kinetic movement in modernist painting, and themes in Newfoudland visual art.