Artist Profiles

Ian Breakwell

Born 1945 Derby, England. 

Died 2005 London, England. 

Ian Breakwell was a prolific and world-renowned artist who took a multi media approach to his observations on society. 

During the 1970s Breakwell worked with the Artist Placement Group (APG), which positioned artists into government departments in the hope that their intuition would improve the decision-making process. Breakwell's placements included the Department of Health and Social Security; under its auspices, he worked in Broadmoor and Rampton hospitals. The results included a report, co-written with a group of architects, recommending top-to-bottom changes at Rampton, and a film, The Institution (1978), made with the singer-songwriter and artist Kevin Coyne. A diary entry recalls Breakwell's first APG visit to Rampton, which immediately stirred memories of performing there as a child-conjuror: the incongruous juxtaposition is entirely characteristic.

In 1986 Pluto Press published Ian Breakwell's Diary 1964-1985, his idiosyncratic journal, observing fine details of modern society typically overlooked by most people. In the 1980s, he made a number of adaptations of his diary for Channel 4.

As well as his longstanding relationship with the Anthony Reynolds Gallery in London, his keenness to develop new ways of working led to residencies with, among others, Tyne Tees Television (1985) and Durham Cathedral (1994-95).

Works of this period included Auditorium (1994), a film made with composer Ron Geesin, in which we are taken to a variety show, but are only allowed to see the audience's reactions; the results are hilarious and touching. 

Locus+ had a fond and long-standing relationship with Ian Breakwell commissioning Christmas Carol, with Ron Geesin, 1991 (Projects UK) and Hidden Cities, 1995 (Locus+)

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