• Home
  • Library
  • Michelle Williams Gamaker: Our Mountains Are Painted on Glass

Michelle Williams Gamaker: Our Mountains Are Painted on Glass

03 May - 30 June 2024

This exhibition features a screening of Thieves, a fantasy retelling The Thief of Bagdad, a silent black and white film from 1924 and remade in colour in 1940. Williams Gamaker reimagines marginalised characters, blending classic and contemporary filmmaking, reflecting her love for cinema and storytelling.

Fri 3 May - Sun 3 Jun

Through her practice British-Sri Lankan artist Michelle Williams Gamaker explores race, identity, her love of cinema and the power of storytelling.

Known for her inventive filmmaking and screenwriting, Williams Gamaker draws on and celebrates the classic movies she watched growing up, and takes inspiration from early Hollywood and British cinema. The exhibition at Bluecoat will screen Thieves, a fantasy adventure retelling of The Thief of Bagdad. The Thief of Bagdad, a silent, black and white film from 1924, was remade in colour in 1940.

Williams Gamaker reimagines the marginalised characters as claiming leading roles in her film, played in the originals by Chinese-American actor Anna May Wong and Indian-born American actor Sabu. Now, both characters reclaim the story as their own, challenging the racial discrimination of the film industry. Told as a movie within a movie, in Thieves Anna May Wong is found on set by Sabu, but there is something wrong: she is in black-and-white while everything else is in Technicolor, and both find themselves trapped in their screen-images. Both must navigate the structural violence on set (in this case, the casting of white actors to replace actors of colour) by joining forces to overthrow the set and those in charge.

Thieves is a vivid retelling, blending classic analogue methods with contemporary practices. The artist celebrates the best of past and present filmmaking and shares her love of cinema through the stories she unpicks.

Our Mountains Are Painted on Glass was co-commissioned by South London Gallery and DCA.

Hear from Michelle Williams Gamaker and Dahong Hongxuan Wang as they talk about their latest exhibitions at the Bluecoat.

About the Artist

Award winning moving image artist Michelle Williams Gamaker (b.1979, London) has developed Fictional Activism to interrogate 20th Century cinema, by retelling the histories of marginalised actors and by proposing critical alternatives to colonial storytelling in British and Hollywood studio films.

She is joint winner of Film London’s Jarman Award (2020) and has an extensive national and international profile, including prestigious BFI London Film Festivals (2017, 2018, 2021), Aesthetica (winner of Best Experimental Film, 2021, 2023) and LSFF (2022, 2024). Recent exhibitions include Our Mountains Are Painted on Glass at South London Gallery and Dundee Contemporary Arts (2023), I Multiply Each Day, Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland (2021), The Whitechapel London Open 2022, Like There is Hope and I Can Dream of Another World at Hauser & Wirth and a major public commission Springfield Eternal in the atrium of Springfield Hospital for charity Hospital Rooms (2023).

Williams Gamaker’s work is in the Arts Council Collection, her films are distributed by LUX and her entire filmography has been recognised and preserved by the BFI National Film Archive. She is a Studio Artist at Gasworks, where she is also trustee. Williams Gamaker is Reader in BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and is currently a British Academy Wolfson Fellow. She champions emerging artists, most recently as Selector for the prestigious John Moore’s Painting Prize (2020) and Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2021.

The Lives of Artists

This exhibition is part of 'The Lives of Artists' season, asking audiences what might be uncovered about ourselves when we listen to the testimony, histories, and stories of artists reflecting on their lives.

Showing alongside Michelle Williams Gamaker is a new film, Role Model by Dahong Hongxuan Wang.