I’m somewhere in the middle of the suburban sprawl that lies to the north of York city centre, perched on a sofa amongst all the usual trappings of a cosy family life, pleasant and familiar.
I’m faced with something entirely more challenging.
Ahead of me stands an array of paintings, assertively composed and somewhat oblique. They’re the work of Steve Williams, former treader of corporate corridors turned gardener and artist.
So what am I seeing?
Earlier, more representative works offer striking impressions of tangible scenes – York Minster with its Gothic regalia felt out as hoops of vivid colour, pale lighthouses belittled by placid and seemingly endless seas… As the chronology of this artist’s work continues, the viewer sees anchors to the material world, from the lighthouse, to the ships, to the sea itself melting away until only colours and abstract forms remain.
Williams tells me that, above all, his paintings represent an emotional response to the subject matter. I sense that by cutting all ties with the strictly representative, Williams can now channel more purely that emotional response which compels him to paint.
The resulting artworks are absorbing. Ironically, these later, abstract paintings bristle with a far greater physicality than Williams’ more representative works. In these pieces, formations of colour jostle noisily in big, scuffed blocks and subtly complementary ribbons.
One painting in particular draws me in (directly above), calling to mind minute splinters of frost exploding slowly through a prism. Others thrum with industry, fade into murk or offer glimpses into other worlds through rips and tears in their composition.
As I walk back through the front door of Williams’ house and out onto the street, I consider the set of paintings I’ve just witnessed. I may not have experienced any personal aesthetic revelation, nor have I witnessed the rewriting of any artistic rulebooks.
What I have experienced; what I have witnessed, is an emotional release. These works in their chronology offer a visual representation of a euphoric escape from the circumscriptive influence of formality, allegorising not only the artist’s development, but also his flight from the corporate world to a life spent creatively and in touch with nature.
It’s a privilege and a joy to see such a narrative unfold, and it is better still to see an increasingly unbridled Williams expressing the world in ever more absorbing ways in his newer works.
A free-to-view exhibition of paintings by Steve Williams will be on display at City Screen from Saturday 21st September ’til 19th October.
Steve Williams can be contacted at email@example.com
For more information on Steve Williams, click here.