A few weeks ago I was invited to the opening of a solo exhibition by a New York-based American painter, Mark Williams . The exhibition was held in a stylish gallery, Art for Thought (which also serves as a café) in a plush area of Ginza in Tokyo. To be honest, I didn’t know a great deal about Mark Williams` work. The exhibition flyer stated his work leans to geometric abstraction and he’s been on the art scene for a while. Anyway, by going, I hoped I might even get the opportunity to ask him a question or two and learn something.
Mark Williams’ comment on the exhibition flyer:
‘I am compelled to create art. I am alert to the world around me-shapes, patterns, rhythms and colours. I see the way things are arranged, assembled and placed. These things capture my attention; get me thinking. I begin new work without a predetermined result. I follow my intuition. However, it is considered deliberate and controlled-completely intentional. The finished artworks are frontal but also they read laterally and spatially’
Taking his comments on board, for me, I viewed his work as making references to maps or something environmental. Living and working in New York, I thought that aspect would be an influence. I scribbled down some questions based on my assumptions.
1(i) In your own words, you say your work is very ‘controlled’ Does living in the New York environment influence your work in any way?
2 (ii) I view your work as making a comment on social relationships in cartographic form, is that how you interpret your work?
At the show he was given a smooth introduction in Japanese and in English by Art Alliance, lecturer, Yuki Miyamoto. A large number of the participants at the exhibition were from Art Alliance which incidentally is a group which specialises in classes where students learn English through Art and Art History. Mark then offered a few comments about his work which Yuki translated to the audience.
During the course of the evening, I managed to get a few minutes to talk to him about his work. I got to ask him the first question. The answer was ‘no’ However, he seemed interested as to how I saw his work. The process element of his work I found particularly engaging. It all sounded very meticulous, a lot of attention to detail, considerations into rules such as parameters, guidelines and pre-mediated calculations regarding positive and negative spaces. My head was spinning at this point! Also, and I wouldn’t have noticed this, that his process involves a large amount of various types of sticky tape which is precisely arranged. I’m not sure as to what kinds of tape, though he did mention medical bandage. The canvas is then coated entirely in one colour, taped, then painted over before the stripping process begins. He also mentioned about his watershed moment coming around 1994 when his work dramatically shifted. I didn’t catch the main reason but having researched his work later, it may have been either his process or materials used. Our conversation also briefly touched on a few American artists that had made a life’s work out of recording their own environments. Hopper being one.
It was absorbing listening to him articulating on his work in such depth. I definitely got something out of going to the exhibition and felt inspired as a result. I only wish I had taken my voice recorder to the exhibition especially as he told me an amusing anecdote when meeting abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning for the first time. Sadly, it`s all a haze in my memory but a fond memory.
Below are a few of my favourites (not exhibited at the show).
Stand Out (2010) Acrylic latex on canvas, 20 x 24 inches
Untitled #9 (2008) Ink on paper drawing 12x 9 inches
Further dialogue from myself and Mark Williams for historical discussion purposes
Thank you for your kind comments regarding my article last week. It was nice meeting you too that evening. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to chew the fat on art a little more with you. Anyway, I just have one small question that has been on my mind regarding my article. When viewing and commenting on others’ practice, I always try to maintain an accurate representation in articles as to avoid any fabrication or misunderstandings. However, there was some speculation that my question to you regarding the environment influencing your work could have been a ‘yes’. In my article I have clearly stated you said, ‘no’. During that evening I took notes as I had forgotten to take my voice recorder. According to my notes, I have written, he said, ‘Well, not exactly’ to my question. I took that as a ‘no’. Would you mind clarifying very briefly ‘yes’ or ‘no’ just for peace of mind as I wouldn’t want the article to contain any falsification. Thank you
June 5th, 2016
My apologies for not getting back to you sooner.
My art is not directly based on or influenced by my urban surroundings. I am not a nature painter.
My art is contingent on me making things (paintings, drawings, prints, Artist Books). As someone once said, “Work leads to work.” Might have been Richard Serra. I am not good at visualizing something before it is made. How about this: One thing leads to another. In the gaps are assessment, critique, puzzling, decision, and so forth that build up to the next set of actions (making more stuff).
All best enjoy the summer!
July 23rd, 2016