Jeff Wall was born in Vancouver in 1946. Attentive to the accidental encounters that can inspire an image, he recreates flashes of inspiration obtained from sources as varied as personal recollections to something noticed on the street, to daydreams, and encounters with paintings or photographs. With an idea in mind, Wall goes to exacting lengths to produce the picture, which may include constructing a scene from scratch, factoring in the position of the sun over several weeks, and improvisational rehearsals with performers. Wall’s pictures include both fantastical scenes—a picnic with vampires, dead troops conversing, a grave flooded by the ocean—and vernacular images of people on the margins of society or in moments of exchange and quiet contemplation.
Orchestrating his compositions with the creative liberties that a painter would take, the curious magic and discipline of Wall’s work is that it all takes place in a state of photographic realism where every action, object, and condition is simultaneously artificial and entirely natural. Often printed on the grand scale of a history painting—exhibited either as backlit lightboxes akin to advertising displays or as crisp ink jet and silver gelatin prints—Wall’s works reveal their poetic potential through portraying empathetic characters, picturing impossible vantage points, and capturing elusive moments.
Jeff Wall attended Courtauld Institute, University of London (Doctoral Research, 1970-73) and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (MA, 1970). Wall’s awards include the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts (2008), Roswitha Haftmann Prize (2003), Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (2002), and The Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award (2001).
Wall has had major exhibitions at Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek (2015); Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris (2015); Pérez Museum, Miami (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2014); Kunsthaus Bregenz (2014); MCA Sydney (2013); Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2008); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007); The Art Institute of Chicago (2007); SFMoMA (2007); Schaulager, Basel (2005); and Tate Modern, London (2005), among others. Jeff Wall lives and works in Vancouver, BC, Canada.