13 FEB – 09 MARCH.2019
DUTCHESS COUNTY PICNIC
A solo show by Laura Williams
Laura Williams is a self-taught painter who, as said by Francis McWhannell (2018), “actively leans into the ‘naïve’” to create works which are playful, ebullient and as the artist states, “thoughtfully irreverent”. Covering a lot of ground in her practice, Williams has teased her work into four distinct strands; Still Life, Room Portraits, Subverted Garden of Eden and works from her recent residency in New York’s Hudson Valley with ChaShaMa. Dutchess County Picnic brings us a miscellany of these strands for the first time, a county picnic for the eyes.
Inspired by a plethora of extraordinary artists such as Henri Rousseau, David Hockney and Hieronymus Bosch alongside the likes of William Morris, Pierre Bourdieu and Emily Dickinson, Williams pulls from a variety of creative disciplines. With these historical giants in her minds eye, Williams sits within her Auckland based apartment (with her budgie Bev-Bevan) alongside an array of op-shopped figurines, ceramics and trinkets. Employing the objects as immediate visual references, Williams arranges tableaus before her. She then opens her Pinterest account to supplement the composition with embellishments; pattern and print to populate the fabrics in the works - tablecloths, wallpaper and curtains.
In further discussing her process, Williams states “Many of my paintings are literally a palimpsest of art once found in the majority of mid-century living rooms. In an act of artistic demur to Walter Benjamin’s essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Art, I utilise mid-century art prints adhered to board, which I flip over and repurpose as my canvas. Subsequently, on the reverse of many of my paintings, faded to various shades of sludgy blue by the antipodean sun, are the mass-produced prints which mainstreamed the works of artists such as Gainsbourg, Rousseau, Picasso, Van Gogh.” Working from background to foreground, like a Victorian stage set, it is then that Williams goes about layering the thick acrylic onto the surface.
Romantic and full of life, Williams’ works capture a distinctive take on her personal and societal memories. With an MA in Sociology it is no wonder the works have a focus on people; whether living or through thoughtfully placed references to long-gone hero’s/heroines. In doing so, Williams’ reveals links between people, their ideas, their impact and the era to which they belong.
Dutchess County Picnic has a particular focus on Williams’ time at ChaNorth whilst on her residency (late last year) as this is her first solo exhibition since returning. Alongside the American wildlife sprinkled throughout the works, Williams has also placed books which she read and was inspired by whilst away. True Deceiver by Tove Jansson and Saison De Paris (which Williams has loaned the Gallery for the duration of the exhibition) feature in a couple of works. Stissing Mountain is also visible - part of Williams view from her studio.
Several Dutchess County Picnic works have also been visited by the men who inhabit the Subverted Garden of Eden works. A feminist take on the historical artistic practice of painting groups of scantily clad and unclothed young women frolicking and bathing in a pastoral setting. These works depict adult men enjoying idyllic natural paradises free from normative codes of behaviour and attire. Here Williams prompts an acknowledgment, even if unwitting, of the past passive depiction of women in art, through gentle normalcy.
Williams brings us such a delightful mix of humour, intelligence, and cheekiness that it is difficult not to find yourself besotted. We hope you enjoy the exhibition as much as we do.
Williams has exhibited in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. In New Zealand, Williams has shown with Black Asterisk, Corban Estate Arts Centre, Lesley Kreisler Gallery, The Artists Room and Art Ache. Williams has several works in the Wallace Trust Collection and her works have been purchased by other notable private collections in New Zealand and abroad.
Written by Gallery Director, Laree Payne, in collaboration with Artist, Laura Williams.