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Ian Breakwell (1943-2005) was a unique figure in the development of art in the UK, in the latter part of the twentieth century. Born into a working-class family in Derbyshire in 1943, Ian Breakwell drew on a range of cultural influences, including vaudeville and variety acts (he had performed as a stage magician as a child), as well as conceptual art practices. His work was created through a range of media, including performance, film, television broadcasts, and writing, as well as painting, collage and drawing. Running through it all is a recurrent focus on everyday life, approached through overlooked, humorous or surreal perspectives.
He studied at the West of England College of Art in Bristol, and programmed at the Bristol Arts Centre in the late 1960s. His work was shown at Arnolfini on several occasions through the 1970s and 80s, in both solo and group exhibitions. In this anniversary presentation, in Gallery 5 we are showing part of the Continuous Diary project, which Breakwell is best known for (and which was the focus of his 1977 exhibition at Arnolfini); Carry More Home It’s Smart to be Greedy, which was commissioned by Arnolfini for the digital newscaster outside the Bristol Hippodrome, as part of the exhibition On Site (also 1977); while in the Dark Studio we are showing UNWORD (1969/2003), a film created with Mike Leggett from a series of performance pieces of the same name, partly shot in Bristol.
This is accompanied in the Reading Room by a display of material from Arnolfini’s archive, giving insight into how Breakwell’s work was presented and received in Bristol at the time, and responses by young artists working in Bristol today.
16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA