The Elusive State of Happiness - Ian Breakwell

Saturday 13 February 2010 to Sunday 18 April 2010

A major exhibition of the work of Derby-born Ian Breakwell (1943 - 2005)

The Elusive State of Happiness was a major exhibition of the work of Ian Breakwell (1943-2005), a man with an eye for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Breakwell was a world renowned prolific artist who took a multi-media approach to his observation of the minutiae of life through a wide range of media including dairies, film works, TV, audio and drawing.

Spanning a career of 40 years, his work is an attempt to subtract the obvious from the everyday, to isolate and bring it to another level of meaning, and aesthetic experience. The diary is the central motif of the exhibition, and the link of Ian’s books and films with his video, drawing and audio works – all of them speaking as reference for his Continuous Diary lifelong project.

The humour, mischief and oblique wonder at the world that permeates his verbal and visual legacy is already legendary. His voyeurism –social rather than sexual– is always mitigated by humour: “The humour that I love is the morose, the deadpan, the seemingly unfunny stuff that is close to misery, but not quite.” By presenting a continuous re-interpretation of what we already know, and have overlooked, Breakwell invites the viewer not to discard, but to reinvent the meaning of things. He invites us to see with other eyes.

Born in Derby and educated at the Derby College of Art, Ian Breakwell was a remarkably talented artist in any medium he handled, written, spoken and depicted, including media broadcasts, notably with adaptations of his Continuous Diary and Christmas Diary on Channel 4 in 1984 and 1988.


Curated by Louise Clements & Alfredo Cramerotti, in partnership with Anthony Reynolds Gallery and Felicity Sparrow.


A Seminar Event on Ian Breakwell took place in QUAD on 14th April 2010, with interventions and contributions by Breakwell’s scholars and experts and special screening of the film works Auditorium (1993, 30 min) and Variety (2001, 20 min).

A richly illustrated Exhibition Guide with over 80 colour reproductions accompanied the exhibition with original texts and visuals on more than 20 works from Breakwell’s illustrious career through a wide range of media. Full colour, Brossard cover, available through QUAD Box Office priced £5.00

During March 2010 a Film Season curated by Felicity Sparrow and David Sin screened in QUAD’s cinema, showcasing some of the films that impacted on the work and life of Ian Breakwell.


Image credit:

Detail from:
Walserings  1991
©the estate of Ian Breakwell; courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London