Since beginning her career in the 1980’s, Williams’ oeuvre can be defined, in part, by its transition from boldly narrative and satirical, cartoon-like paintings exploring themes of feminism, violence, and inequality, to all-over compositions of brightly colored semi-abstractions, retaining the political bent of her earlier work.
In her latest body of work, which is now on show at Skarstedt Gallery, Paris, Williams maintains her lyrical and witty nature. However, these new paintings mark a distinct moment within her career influenced by living outside of Brooklyn, by the sea.
She has cited this as a happy atmosphere in which to work and the pieces on view in this show offer a more playful side to Williams, with a greater emphasis on experimentation and the process of painting itself. With more abstraction and sense of interiority, the political undercurrents of her previous work are still visible.
Balancing vivid bursts of color with hints of figuration and large expanses of open canvas, the paintings on view evince a certain looseness and freedom. Williams allows the colors to blend into each other, creating a kind of muddiness that underscores the loose nature of the paint application and her overall method of working, which increasingly aims to let new elements evolve on the canvas organically.
At the same time, a continued emphasis on the graphic qualities of the line and certain recurring motifs are present throughout the works on view. Houses and pilgrim’s feet, for example, pop up in some paintings, images that still retain meaning and excitement for the artist. As ever, Williams’ work taps into the inner emotions of our collective existence in a manner uniquely animated and spirited.
Sue Williams was born in Chicago in 1954. She received her BFA in 1976 from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Working predominantly with oil and acrylic on canvas, Williams came to prominence in the early 1980s, exploring themes of postmodern feminism and personal experience. Influenced by the aesthetic of Abstract Expressionism, Williams merges colorful abstraction with feminist sexual imagery, inspiring a dynamism and unconventional theatricality unique to her work.
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