Luke Willis Thompson

Read the biography for the Turner Prize 2018 nominee Luke Willis Thompson

Portrait of Luke Willis Thompson


Portrait of Luke Willis Thompson, Turner Prize 2018 Shortlisted Artist. Image courtesy of the artist.

Luke Willis Thompson was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1988. He studied at the Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Frankfurt am Main 2013-2015, and the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 2006-10.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Luke Willis Thompson, Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington (2018); autoportrait, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland (2017); Luke Willis Thompson, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2017); Cemetery of Uniforms and Liveries, Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin (2016); Misadventure, Institute of Modern Art (IMA), Brisbane (2016); Sucu Mate/Born Dead, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland (2016) and nicht mehr, nicht minder als der Sugar, Reisebürogalerie, Cologne. He has a forthcoming solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel (June 2018). He is nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018, and is the recipient of the 2014 Walters Prize.

Luke Willis Thompson works across film, performance, installation and sculpture to tackle traumatic histories of class, racial and social inequality, institutional violence, colonialism and forced migration. Following research into racialised stop-and-search policies and killings, Thompson’s silent black and white 16mm and 35mm films are performances by people fundamentally impacted by police and state brutality.

The technique Thompson uses replicates and reconfigures Andy Warhol’s silent black and white 16mm films, Screen Tests (1964-66), a series of short slow motion portraits of famous and anonymous visitors to the artist’s studio. Thompson’s precise use of this format highlights the almost total absence of people of colour in Warhol’s 472 Screen Tests.

Autoportrait was produced during Thompson’s Chisenhale Gallery Create Residency (2016-7) and continues his preoccupation with raising questions around personal, artistic and political agency. In July 2016, Diamond Reynolds broadcast live via Facebook the moments immediately after the fatal shooting of her partner Philando Castile by a police officer during a traffic-stop in Minnesota. Thompson invited Reynolds to work with him to produce an aesthetic response that could act as a ‘sister image’ to her broadcast, breaking with the well-known image of Reynolds caught in a moment of violence which had circulated widely online and in the news. Thompson’s silent filmed portrait of Reynolds was made during a period of uncertainty between the charging of the officer who killed Castille and the subsequent trial.

Luke Willis Thompson is 30 and lives and works in London.