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Running Thunder (2007)

Sir Steve McQueen

16mm colour film

Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Running Thunder (2007)

© Steve McQueen. Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery



Moving Image


16mm film


11 : 4 (continuous loop) minutes


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society and the artist through its Great Works scheme, supported by the Sfumato Foundation, with additional support from Thomas Dane Gallery, 2018/19

Ownership history:

Purchased from the Thomas Dane Gallery by the Contemporary Art Society from its Great Works scheme, supported by the artist, Sfumato Foundation and the Thomas Dane Gallery, 2019; presented to Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 2018/19
Running Thunder is a mesmerising film. A glossy black horse lies in a field, framed by gently swaying grass. Through subtle signs, the viewer eventually realises that the horse is dead rather than sleeping. The immobility of the horse contrasts with the title of the film, with its suggestion of speed and power. Integral to the experience of the work is the sound of the 16mm projector insistently spooling in the background. While the central image of the film can be read as relating to an English landscape tradition, or to the European still life genre, the quiet presence of the projector reinforces an understanding of the work as primarily considering the condition of moving image itself.

We are reminded of early studies of animal locomotion using horses, undertaken by Eadweard Muybridge, the pioneer of early moving image. The medium of film, defined by time and motion, is subverted by McQueen’s static motif: a nature morte , or still life. The beauty of the saturated colours typical of 16mm film and the fall of light on the animal bear comparison with vanitas painting, as a meditation on time, mortality, and the possibilities of preservation through film.

McQueen’s work resonates strongly with the collections at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, which has been a pioneer in collecting film and video. Early acquisitions included Childhood’s End by Cornford & Cross and Let’s Call it Love by Breda Beban – both in 2000. Jane & Louise Wilson, John Smith, Luke Fowler, Larissa Sansour and Willie Doherty all feature in the collection as well. More recently the Gallery acquired films by Keith Piper, Go West Young Man (1996), and Sonia Boyce, Exquisite Tension (2005), as part of a collecting project which focused on the early years of the BLKArt Group in the city. The Gallery also has a comprehensive collection of art related to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a theme memorably addressed by McQueen in his first feature film Hunger (2008). The collection and programme both have strength in new media and one gallery has been newly refurbished to show artists’ film and video more regularly.

All rights reserved. Any further use will need to be cleared with the rights holder. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying, hiring, lending is prohibited. The collection that owns this artwork may have more information on their own website about permitted uses and image licensing options.

For further information, please consult our section of our copyright policy.

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