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John Gillies

Author 
Andrew Frost

A sailing vessel hoves into view, white sails billowing in the darkness. Images appear on the sails, projections of microscopic surfaces, rocks, patterns, pages of the Bible. Children laughing and electronic noises can be heard on the soundtrack. So begins John Gillies’s Armada (1994-1998), a video/sound installation. Gillies’s work since the 1980s has explored the dynamic relationships between sound, music and image, producing exquisitely realised and sumptuously ambiguous immersive experiences. 

Gilles has made numerous stand-alone video works, installations and live video mixes.  His work De Quincey Tapes (2001), for example, is a piece that incorporates live performance elements in the form of dancing bodies, multiple projections and layered faces. The feel of the work is improvisatory, with a loose organic flow to the narrative. Gillies’ Shiver (VJ Mix) (2005) documents a live, improvised music and video mixing performance for dancers choreographed by Tess de Quincey. With strobing wipes of dancers with fans and dressed in fake fur the video advances the artists interests in ambiguous but thematically unified collage narratives.

Other works by Gillies courts more traditional narrative montage territory. Divide (2006) is a two screen piece that unhurriedly describes the journey of a group of men travelling across a pastoral landscape. On one screen we see a man carrying a lamb across craggy ground. On the other screen, a group of men, perhaps a gang of convicts, are seen making their way through bush and forest, encountering rough terrain, a Chinese dancer in the night and the death of one of the party.

Fractured across two screens, Divide manages a unique narrative cohesion, expanding cinematic language as the audience encounters separate parts of the story on different screens. Road Movie (Part 1) (2008) is a more contained experience on one screen but has the same slow building narrative of Divide. In Road Movie (Part 1) a driver makes his way through a traffic jam, eventually arriving on the outskirts of a city in darkness. He drives the car into a hole, then begins to bury it. The loop begins again. 

Date 
b. 1960
Birth place
Beaudesert, QLD, Australia
Period of activity 
from 1980

Lives and works

Sydney
Australia
Selected works
Selected events
John Gillies: Armada, installation view 1998
John Gillies: Armada, installation view 1998 – from Armada 
John Gillies: The de Quincey Tapes (2001)
John Gillies: The de Quincey Tapes (2001) – from The de Quincey Tapes 
From The Mary Stuart Tapes, via d'archive
From The Mary Stuart Tapes, via d'archive – from The Mary Stuart Tapes, via d/Archive 
John Gillies: Hymn (1983)
John Gillies: Hymn (1983) – from Hymn 
John Gillies: I Need You (1982-86)
John Gillies: I Need You (1982-86) – from I Need You 
John Gillies: Sweeping 1980
John Gillies: Sweeping 1980 – from Sweeping 
John Gillies: Views (1983)
John Gillies: Views (1983) – from Views 
John Gillies: Continuous Monument to the Australian Film Industry (1982)
John Gillies: Continuous Monument to the Australian Film Industry (1982) – from Continuous Monument to the Australian Film Industy 
John Gillies: Get Him in The Helicopter 1981
John Gillies: Get Him in The Helicopter 1981 – from Get Him in the Helicopter 
John Gillies: She Says the Gooves Speak 1987
John Gillies: She Says the Gooves Speak 1987 – from She Says the Grooves Speak 
John Gillies & Jon Rose: 2 Improvisations 1982
John Gillies & Jon Rose: 2 Improvisations 1982 – from 2 Improvisations 
John Gilllies: Hidden Sound Geographies, 1980
John Gilllies: Hidden Sound Geographies, 1980 – from Hidden Sound Geographies 
John Gillies & Sydney Front: Techno/Dumb/Show 1991
John Gillies & Sydney Front: Techno/Dumb/Show 1991 – from Techno/Dumb/Show 
Striking Contrasts 2014-2015, Web Showreel – from Road Movie (Part 1), via Vimeo 
Techno/Dumb/Show,  Conversation 2008,  performance with Clare Grant  'Words emit from inside clothing and from the mouth. Stones fall from the ceiling.'  for live voice, prerecorded voice and soundscape  Performance Space at Carriageworks, Sydney
Techno/Dumb/Show, Conversation 2008, performance with Clare Grant 'Words emit from inside clothing and from the mouth. Stones fall from the ceiling.' for live voice, prerecorded voice and soundscape Performance Space at Carriageworks, Sydney 
House, 2010, 9 min 25 sec HD video, stereo sound or 3 channel installation, 4.1 sound
House, 2010, 9 min 25 sec HD video, stereo sound or 3 channel installation, 4.1 sound 
Road Movie (part 1), 2008, 9 min single channel HD video, 4.1 or stereo sound.
Road Movie (part 1), 2008, 9 min single channel HD video, 4.1 or stereo sound. 
Diasporic Body, 2007  made in collaboration with Alan Schacher  35 min single or multi-channel video loop, dimension variable, silent  performer: Alan Schacher
Diasporic Body, 2007 made in collaboration with Alan Schacher 35 min single or multi-channel video loop, dimension variable, silent performer: Alan Schacher 
Divide, 2006  25 min single channel HD video, stereo sound or 2 channel HD video installation with 4 channel sound
Divide, 2006 25 min single channel HD video, stereo sound or 2 channel HD video installation with 4 channel sound