Saturday, November 08, 2008

Susan Angharad Williams exhibits at ING

Still Life with Artichoke by Susan Angharad Williams
Winner of the ING Discerning Eye Purchase Prize 2007

Next week the ING Discerning Eye exhibition opens at the Mall Galleries. Last year, Susan Angharad Williams, won the the ING Purchase Prize at the 2007 ING Discerning Eye exhibition with her work Still Life with Artichoke (see top). Last week, I was invited by Susan to attend the Private View of her new exhibition at the ING Offices at 60 London Wall in the City of London.

Susan Angharad Williams comes from South Wales and studied art at both Bath Academy of Art and the Royal College of Art. This is what she has to say about her work.
I paint primarily from life. The drawings are derived from many sources - life, photographs, video stills... My work is intensely figurative. Natural pattern is set alongside patterns made by hand. Abandonment, rituals and bearing witness are recurring themes.

I want the intense stillness of the images and the relationship between the objects to project both harmony and tension. The further tension between three-dimensional space and the flat surface, between spatial forms and linear description is a constant exploration.
Susan Angharad Williams
What I particularly like about her work is that both her drawings and her paintings are immaculate. Susan told me that when drawing she uses pencils ranging between a 3H and a 7B. The mark-making in both oil paintings and drawings is almost imperceptible - which I would imagine is a whole lot more difficult than absolutely smooth. In relation to her drawings it's as if graphite could breathe and has exhaled on the paper.

They remind me of a cross between a modern take on Dutch Still life of the 16th and 17th centuries (particularly the 'memento mori' paintings) and the silverpoint drawings of Stanley Spencer (once seen, never forgotten - even if they never get an outing in galleries these days!). The recent work of Alison Watt and her absorption with fabric and folds and what lies beyond and behind also came to mind in relation to more recent drawings which have been of bodies covered in cloth and some of the abstractions I saw in some of her drawings.

Two dolls and Wooden Figures
oil paintings by Susan Angharad Williams

I asked Susan about her work and how she approaches it. Apparently the dolls and wooden figures she uses in a number of her paintings and drawings are used as representations of people and are evocative of events in her past life.
I think there are many strands to the choice of 'dolls' as subject matter. On a straightforward but visually important level, I react to them as very beautiful objects - but beyond that superficial appearance, they are, for me, representations of human beings, particularly the human female. Memories of childhood, some disturbing, are bound up with this aspect of my work.

Some of the doll-like images are based on clay, papier mache or wooden models, some of which I have made myself.

You asked me whether I was religious (you noted that I had mentioned 'crucifix form' twice). I said I was not, but that I felt that there was a 'spiritual' element to my work. (How difficult to put into words!). I suppose what I am trying to describe is a sense of awe/wonder at the beauty and tragedy of the world.
Some of her drawings have a balletic feel - and having through that thought, the very next drawing I saw was titled 'Arabesque'!

I particularly liked her drawing of a seagull which I discovered is a particular favourite of Susan's and is not for sale. It is immensely elegant in form and mark-making and yet is quite clearly a drawing of a bird which has met its maker.

Seagull by Susan Angharad Williams
pencil drawing

Susan's work can be found in both public and private collections and her work has been shown in a number of mixed exhibitions including ones held at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal College of Art, Leeds City Art Gallery, St David’s Hall Cardiff and Carlisle Art Gallery.

Members of the public can attend the exhibition which continues until 20th November by appointment only. For more information or to purchase a picture please contact me and I'll pass on your message to the lady at ING.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Susan for inviting me to the Private View and for the chance to talk to her about her work which, even without our discussion, 'spoke' to me about quality in terms of both concept and execution.

ING Discerning Eye

This exhibition is part of ING’s UK Art Programme which includes sponsorship of the ING Discerning Eye. The ING Discerning Exhibition is held annually at the Mall Galleries, London SW1. Six selectors – two artists, two collectors and two critics – each choose around a hundred works for the exhibition. The works cannot be larger than twenty inches in any dimension, making them ideal for the domestic environment. ING offers a Purchase Prize every year, with the winning picture becoming part of our collection. The ING Discerning Eye will be open to the public from Thursday 13th to Sunday 23rd November.


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