The paintings in this exhibition are loyal to the two genres of landscape and still life but I like to think there is an overlap, that the still lifes are landscapes on a table, that the copse or island are like objects in space, but subjected to close scrutiny. Once again I use watercolour as a medium of precision but space is now constructed with thread-like parallel lines – or filaments of light – running throughout the picture. Their purpose is to challenge the stillness of precise linear art, to give it movement.
The thread or nerve-like, character of the lines is very important. They are formed by hand drawn bands of underpainting, roughly ½ inch in width, leaving the gap between the bands as a white line. Then, as the painting develops, this line is occasionally left white when it coincides with a high light. More often it is washed by the surrounding colours which reduces the starkness of the line and embeds it in the surface of paint. As in all watercolour these incremental means discover Light by working towards Darkness. The mesh gives the image movement but also, as important, acts as an intervention into the naturalism of the picture. It questions that naturalism and the detailed presence of the scene depicted, just as the activity of brush marks in painterly art does. Hopefully it enables my long lasting ambition, to make pictures of the experience of presence and absence in the material world.
Michael Williams, March 2016
The procedures of watercolour painting are to place coloured marks, or transparent glazes, on a white paper. The addition of colour is a subtraction from the white. Corrections by way of cancellations are scarcely possible. This cumulative way of observing the external world is central to Michael Williams’s way of working. The subjects of his watercolours are not primarily trees, the sea or objects, but rather the
experience of looking at the space and the air in a landscape or a still life, and finding ways of recording that experience on the paper by slowly adding colour and reacting to his observations of the resulting form. The final image is not a representation of something in the real world, but a record of the artist’s perception, which is also made available to the spectator.
Stephen McKenna, 2016
Michael Williams was born in Patna, India in 1936. After reading History at Oxford he studied painting at La Grande Chaumiere in Paris. Returning to London he taught Art History at St. Martin’s (1964 -71) and then Fine Art at Goldsmith’s (1972 – 81). In the 1970s he moved to Wales which led to a shift from a kind of ‘pop art’ painting to a kind of Ruskinian landscape painting, devoted to the Marches and later to the Greek and Aegean landscapes. Lately he has become increasingly interested in still life but last year he won Second Prize in in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition with a painting ‘Land, Sea, Island’, which was looking towards Skomer, off the Pembrokeshire coast.