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John Hilliard is back at our gallery after all these years.
We first met in our youth, so now the time has come for him too to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of his first show at Galleria Massimo Minini.
Back then the gallery was called “Banco”, a sort of Situationist name (“Counter”) for a place where money, ideas, paintings and photographs could change hands.
I visited his studio just recently: the Vicarage, near Elephant and Castle, in London. Obviously, it’s by a church.
John has always practiced an ambiguous kind of photography. At first glance, it’s not clear what’s going on. It takes time to understand his work; slight shifts of image and meaning slowly overlap to form the final picture—assuming there is one, as opposed to two or three…
John was moving around the photos in his studio, both large and small.
We looked at them and talked about them one by one. I noticed that many form a pair, each work referring to a second one, or perhaps vice versa.
I mentioned this impression of mine. As the works were shown, more and more “couples” kept turning up: two men on a threshold, but in slightly different times and poses; two castles on the hill; two horses on the moor…
The question started to intrigue me. I suggested that the show (and the book) be based on this dualism.
As we were moving works around, a squirrel came in and ate some crumbs on the floor.
I took my leave with this story of opposites in my head. John had to think about it. In the end he came around.
Sometimes a different pair of eyes brings a view that can surprise even the artist.