Thursday April 29, 2021
Private View: Sunday 16th May 2021 11am – 4pm
The Exhibition continues until: Saturday 5th June 2021
Nowadays he may be best known for his farmyards with their mud, barns, chickens and rusting vehicles, perhaps above all for his assertive sheep, but there is something of the nomad about Alex Williams, both in his life and as an artist. He has moved home as many times as he has changed his styles, mediums and subject matter. He has been a designer, commercial artist and gallery artist. There have been periods of high-colour painting and black and white printmaking; surrealism and near photo-realist landscapes; acrylic, oil paint and coloured pencils; wildfowl and country houses; ceramics and T-shirts; a side foray into television and a period as painter laureate to the King of Hay.
However, there has been one constant and one recurring theme to his art, and these have steadied him on the occasions when he feared he “was going up a blind alley painting in the styles of artists I admired.”
This constant is his understanding that good drawing is fundamental to good painting. He was very fortunate that he won himself a place at St Martins in the last years when the skill was still valued at art schools, and he was privileged to be taught by Vivian Pitchforth and Peter Blake. “We drew and drew and drew. We went outside to draw and we had to attend two evening classes in drawing each week,” he recalls. It was 1961, and through Blake he was brought into contact with the Young Contemporaries, Hockney, Boshier, Kitaij, Jones and Phillips, giving him a ringside seat as the old division between fine and commercial art was demolished.
Alex’s recurring theme is the interaction of humanity with landscape and animal life. In fact, human figures are rare in his recent paintings and if shown are in supporting roles, but everything – other than the weather – is the product of human activity or intervention. The landscapes are man-made and the beasts man-bred.
It may seem odd to say so, but Alex has been lucky in his accidents and illnesses. Several times concussion (once the result of a bad car smash on Broadway Hill) changed the course of his life, and when “I was suffering from an ulcer and wandering around the farmland, I stumbled on the subject matter I have constantly revisited. I have been painting water, farm animals and old buildings all my life, but have always thought there must be more.” He found more in a distillation of those subjects into something completely his own, as anyone knows who doesn’t just look at his farmyards, but listens to their lows and bleats and slooshing hooves in the mud.
He has spent the past year on the Isle of Wight, painting indefatigably. While revisiting scenes and themes, such as the Hollywood hills from his two years in California, or Welsh farms, he has found new subjects and styles, and a renewed delight in colour. In two years Alex will be 80… we can look forward to a celebratory show then that will be as new and fresh as this one.
Huon Mallalieu 2021