Submit to the Aesthetics of Tess Williams’ Unconventional Expanding Paintings
Tess Williams‘ (b. 1985) unconventional visual language offers a great opportunity to investigate a fundamental art concern: the attempt to go beyond boundaries and experiment with the basic principals of painting. What is a painting? is an ongoing interrogation embedded in Williams’ art as well as a creative fascination mirrored in her artistry. An ontological examination of the traditional painting is suggested by the artist’s work, which is bringing forward for discussion the theoretical structure of a painting. Her work is an interdisciplinary mixture of textures, materials, photography and collage highlighting the importance of the elements’ materiality and the paintings’ physicality and tactility.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
“I start by saturating the canvas/linen with thinned layers paint – so the fabric completely absorbs the liquid. Then working into them with different materials and techniques”, with this statement Williams enters into the realm of her art genre. Her practice involves gentle qualities of everyday materials and information to create a new body of work that frequently renders engaging geometric compositions; based on this sophisticated arrangement and tactile surface, the artist achieves to communicate the idea of an expanded painting embodied in her contemporary practice.
The boundaries of a painting blur nowadays as they have been variably treated by different artists; Tess Williams is one of those who implies an alternative visual language and creative perspective. In this respect, the emerging artist’s body of work contains references from established artists, such as Sam Gilliam and Michael Buthe, who quintessentially approached the idea of the physical structure of the painting in the middle of the twentieth century. Both artists were concentrated on the concept of restructuring and reshaping.
Unlike them, Williams’ ambition is to reform the initial pattern of work aiming her new non-representational paintings to operate in a more intimate and fresh manner in terms of colour, geometry and texture. “Once the pieces are as I want them, the next process starts – canvas is ripped up, sewn back together, altered completely – eventually reforming to become a composition I’m happy with”, the artist states herself. Pinned un-stretched abstractions that are freely draped from the wall and imposed by the gravity, provide an additional attribute of Williams’ imagery alongside more orthodox creations reminiscent of conventional paintings in dimension and shape. Employing all these types of artwork, her recent body of work resists a straightforward categorisation and therefore it could be described as something between painting, sculpture or -even- installation.
Tess Williams is a British artist who currently lives and works in London. She graduated from the De Montfort University in Fine Arts and recently received her MFA degree from the Central Saint Martins in London. Her work has been exhibited in many countries, such as Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and France. She is now on an art residency at the London-based Griffin Gallery.
In her interview with Art Verge, Tess Williams shares her approach to art issues, while providing some interesting insights about her daily life. Check it out!
Art Verge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Tess Williams: Well, each piece has a different process, and I work in various ways. But in general the initial stages of the paintings are mostly made horizontally on the floor – my studio floor is my easel. I start by saturating the canvas/linen with thinned layers paint – so the fabric completely absorbs the liquid. Then working into them with different materials and techniques.
Once the pieces are as I want them, the next process starts – canvas is ripped up, sewn back together, altered completely – eventually reforming to become a composition I’m happy with. The works can then be hung vertically on the wall, where I start to paint on them further until becoming a finished painting.
AV: How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)?
TW: Tactile, physical, experimental.
AV: Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
TW: There are so many, but a few would be Rauschenberg, Steve Parrino, Richard Serra, Theaster Gates, N.Dash and Jannis Kounellis.
AV: Creating a new painting is a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?
TW: Yes it does, but I think most artists feel the impact on their social life sometimes – especially in the run up to a show deadline. I am lucky that I have friends within my studio building. There are always people to chat to and spend your breaks with, so I never feel isolated.
AV: How do you know when a painting is finished?
TW: Its one of those things that you just know. You can be struggling with a painting for ages and then something just clicks, which is always a satisfying moment.
AV: Which exhibition did you visit last?
TW: Frieze and Frieze Masters.
AV: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
TW: Definitely a morning person, but also like working late at night when the studios are quiet!