Presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Phantom (2011) is one of Douglas Gordon’s most extreme and intense creations; a room brought to the brink of emotion. On a stage in the darkness sits a grand piano; the remains of a burnt piano scattered across the ground; a film of an eye, encircled in smoky-black kohl, slowly opening and closing; and the exhaling, sustained voice of singer Rufus Wainwright, accompanied by piano, whose anthem to a beloved cascades in complementary and dissonant harmonics around the space.
Darkness and light, tragedy, and salvation through redemptive love are the ideas and emotions encountered here as the eye hypnotically pulls you into its welling. In the face of death and rebirth, the eye remains a steady witness. Phantom is at once theatrical and intimate, as the room and audience, like the eye, are filled to brimming.
Gordon is world renowned for his large-scale installations, often incorporating a combination of media including text, photography, sculpture, sound and found cinematic footage. A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art in London, in 1996 Gordon was the first artist to win the Turner Prize in the field of video, catapulting him to an illustrious international career.
Gordon’s images, words and film works are created from an extreme concentration conveyed upon his subject. His works produce a kind of sensation, even an ecstatic state, whether through lingering on the slowed-down frames of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho; following the face of footballer Zinedine Zidane throughout an entire soccer match; filming a slumbering elephant; or scorching out the eyes of matinee idol portraits.
Emerging as an artist at the end of postmodernity, in his earlier works Gordon used appropriation strategies, borrowing images from popular culture and other sources to evolve a striking group of works in his signature, black-and-white videos on floating screens. For 24 Hour Psycho (1993), Gordon slowed down Hitchcock’s iconic film so that it ran over the course of a 24-hour period. The work brought Gordon to international attention and he has been at the forefront of contemporary art practice since.
Much of Gordon’s artistic output centres around themes of memory and loss, often using doubling and mirroring as devices to explore ideas of opposition and duality; including light and dark, male and female, self and other, positive and negative, and guilt and justice. Gordon frequently employs existing film footage as a form of readymade, manipulating the material by altering time or presenting the work in new ways, such as using multiple monitors. For Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006), made in collaboration with Phillipe Parreno, the artists’ portrait of footballer Zinedine Zidane was constructed from 17 cameras set up around a football match, the results of which, when exhibited, are screened simultaneously across an array of monitors.
Since winning the coveted Turner Prize in 1996, Gordon has been the recipient of the Premio 2000 Award for his participation in the 47th Venice Biennale (1997); the 1998 Hugo Boss Prize, awarded by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the 2008 Roswitha Haftmann Prize; and the 2012 Käthe Kollwitz Prize, awarded by the Akademie der Künste, Berlin. His work has been exhibited widely internationally, with significant solo shows including ‘Sharpening Fantasy, 2012’, Blain Southern, Berlin (2013); ‘I am also…Douglas Gordon’, Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2013); ‘Douglas Gordon’, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2011); ‘Douglas Gordon: Timeline’, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006); and ‘Sheep and Goats’, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2000).