Sam Taylor-Johnson makes photographs and films that examine, through highly charged scenarios, our shared social and psyschological conditions.
Taylor-Johnson’s work examines the split between being and appearance, often placing her human subjects – either singly or in groups – in situations where the line between interior and external sense of self is in conflict. Her languid and silent film portrait of David Beckham, for example, which was shot in a single take, offers a serene alternative to this most intensively photographed celebrity. In Prelude in Air (2005) Taylor-Johnson filmed a musician playing a piece of cello music by Bach, but the cello itself has been erased. Likewise, in Breach (Girl and Eunuch) (2001), a girl is portrayed sitting on the floor in the throes of grief, but the sound of her tears has been removed. In the celebrated film Still Life (2001), an impossibly beautiful bowl of fruit decays at an accelerated pace, creating a visceral memento mori. In her film The Last Century (2005), what appears to be a static image of a group of people slowly reveals itself to be a real, filmed take, timed to the length of a burning cigarette: the film is entirely static apart from the involuntary blinking, twitching and barely-visible breathing of four motionless actors, all arranged around a central figure as if in a group portrait painted by Rembrandt or Caravaggio. Taylor-Johnson has also explored notions of weight and gravity in elegiac, poised photographs and films such as Ascension (2003) and a series of self-portraits (Self Portrait Suspended I - VIII) that depict the artist floating in mid air without the aid of any visible support, a motif she returned to, portraying herself suspended by helium-filled party balloons in the series called Escape Artist (2008). Taylor-Johnson’s first feature-length film, Nowhere Boy (2009), a look at the teenage years of John Lennon, premiered at the London Film Festival in October 2009. February 2015 saw the release of Taylor-Johnson’s directorial feature, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, the highly-anticipated adaptation of the best-selling novel.
Sam Taylor-Johnson was born in London in 1967 and has had numerous group and solo exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale (1997) and The Turner Prize (1998). Solo exhibitions include Kunsthalle Zurich (1997), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (1997), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC (1999), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2000), Hayward Gallery, London (2002), State Russian Museum, St Petersburg (2004), MCA, Moscow (2004), BALTIC, Gateshead (2006), MCA Sydney (2006), MoCA Cleveland (2008) and the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston (2008), Brooklyn Museum, New York (2010). In 2011 she was made an Order of the British Empire (OBE).