Keith Arnatt (1930-2008) was one of Britain's leading conceptual artists, who frequently used photography to create and record his artworks. In 2004, his photographic work was presented at the Rencontres d'Arles festival and in 2007 a retrospective was held at The Photographers' Gallery, London.
Concerned with the condition of the art object and his role as 'artist', Arnatt used photography to capture his otherwise ephemeral, conceptual work in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A typically tongue-in-cheek work of this time, Trouser-Word Piece (1972), shows Arnatt wearing a placard stating 'I'm a Real Artist'. Shortly after this, Arnatt decided to concentrate solely on photography as a mode of producing art, rather than documenting it.
Projects include Self Burial, 1969, Walking the Dog, 1979 and The Forest of Dean Project, 1986. Selected bibliography includes Walking the Dog, 1979, introduction by George Melly, Photography as Performance, 1986 and Mysterious Coincidences and Rubbish and Recollections, all Photographers' Gallery publications.
The straightforward portraits of The Visitors (1974 - 76) hint at his interest in the history of portrait photography, while playing on the relation between the camera and its subject.
Arnatt's lightness of touch, and ability to transform the commonplace permeates his work. Pictures from a Rubbish Tip (1988 - 89) echo the traditions of still life, but use the discarded and obsolete. Notes from Jo (1990 - 94) record his wife's Post It note messages such as 'Pies in oven. Press down thing that says START to start'. The work irreverently plays on the conceptual concerns of image and text through the irritations and communications of daily life.
Arnatt's work is in many public collections including the Tate Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Museum of Photography, Bradford.
British Photography / The Hyman Collection