Claire Gilliam is an English photographer, printmaker, painter now based from her home and studio in Warwick, NY. In 1997, she graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in the UK with a BA(Hons) in Fine Art and completed the Professional Certificate in Photography at Rockport College, Maine in 2000. She has studied with photographers such as Arno Minkkinen and John Goodman and master gelatin silver printer, Chuck Kelton and master printmaker, Vijay Kumar. She is an assistant for author and fine art photographer Barbara Mensch. Her works have been shown across Europe and the USA in several private and public collections, including The ICP Library Print Collection and the Goethe Institute. In 2014 and 2015, several of her works were included in a touring exhibition entitled “Embody: The Gender Issue” throughout several cities across India and Sri Lanka. In 2019, she exhibited her solo exhibition “Life Lines” at Amity Gallery.
Early last year the US and much of the world collectively hunkered down to protect against the pandemic, Gilliam began her project drawing the Latin alphabet. Initially, it was an exercise in mark-making. She didn’t know where it would lead her. Her work has always alluded to her physical body in some form, and in this instance, Gilliam challenged herself to write with both her dominant left hand and her non-dextrous right hand to see how a loss of control could abstract and unexpectedly shift the visual field as well as her visual language.
But then, as the year of social isolation continued, and the daily news reports that were her constant soundtrack kept revealing a growing dissonance between fact and fiction, Gilliam found herself thinking deeply about communication and the nature and evolution of language. As the letters flowed from her hands to the page, forwards and backwards on repeat, they too seemed to evolve in much the same way as the world’s alphabets have done so through civilizations. Each drawing became a conversation with its own resonance. She feels a letter or character in any alphabet contains possibilities; a past, a future, compassion and connection, alienation, and the potential for misunderstanding. In the words of Victor Hugo “Human society, the world, and the whole of mankind is to be found in the alphabet”.
Gilliam began the series Life Lines in 2017 after recently coming into possession of MRI scans of her brain. The scans, which she spent hours pouring over, both fascinated and horrified her. Gilliam always knew the seriousness of the brain injury suffered as a baby; however, it was the first time she confronted the visual evidence of the injury. Around the same time, she experienced a continuous period of profound familial loss. Both these episodes left her thinking about the body in a new light. This led her to study the biology and physiology of our bodies and the seemingly cruel, capricious way the body can behave, vacillating between strength and fragility. Gilliam began to make drawings from the MRIs recording the brain to understand how its structure and pathways form to activate the circumstances of the individual being we become. As the series has developed, the imagery has dissolved into abstraction, capturing something more existential. The repetitive lines revealed rhythms, and the patterns formed conversations. Ultimately, Life Lines has evolved into a visual story about connections, threading together a human body with its physical, metaphysical, and interpersonal environment.