Tubes artists contributor, Laurence Cause Parsley, reviews a new exhibition of the work of Alun Williams. London – on show until 10th November.
Tucked away in a quiet street of Islington, The Handel Street Projects run by its passionate owner, Fedja Klikovac, presents until the 10th of November the first Alun Williams‘ solo show in London for thirty years. Alun Williams was born in Manchester in 1961, and lives and works in America. He is involved in the experimental projects undertaken by Parker’s Box, Brooklyn and supports the activities of Triangle in New York, Marseille and La Vigie in Nîmes, France.
The visitor is presented with a variety of artworks, ranging from vintage-framed drawings in graphite and ink in the hall way, small scale resin sculptures covered with blue or gold paint on the mantelpiece, more sketches and drawings in the main room next to larger paintings. They all have a common point: a sinuous, irregular-surfaced abstract shape. In fact this abstract shape is the signature of Alun Williams: passionate about History and historical characters, he sets on a search to discover an accidental ‘trace’ close by a landmark linked to the character he is interested in. From there the artists embarks on a pictorial narrative.
“No Paine No Gain”… refers to Thomas Paine (Thetford 1737- NY 109) the British philosopher… “who was a pioneer of democracy and equality having an enormous influence on both the American and French revolutions. He was also a pioneer of innovation in spreading information-very much a precursor of recent politicians realising the potential of social media. In Paine’s case his famed political texts such as Common sense, Rights of Man, and American crisis were published as ‘cheap’ pamphlets in print runs up of up to 500 000, a circulation volume previously unheard of in the 18th century.”
Alun Williams visited Lewes where Paine lived for a while and on the doorstep of his house found a splash of blue paint. The shape is more than a seducing form under a glass globe as seen on the mantelpiece: in a surrealist way, Williams decided that the splash will be the symbol representing Thomas Paine thus opening a very interesting dialogue between past and present and, in the case of Artist’s Impression: Golden Thomas Paine statue at the ICA Philadelphia, even future! The painting depicts a night view of the ICA in Philadelphia, the first town Paine visited when he went to America. Williams makes the viewer stand outside the building and look through the bay window inside the hall, where a somehow incongruous large stone pedestal is set with the gold sinuous shape at the top. It is a very powerful statement, painting of a memorial monument which does not exist, the symbolic historical presence of Paine in an existing building questioning the meaning of democracy and equality in today’s and tomorrow’s America and thereby in today’s and tomorrow’s world.
It is worth mentioning that the artist has used the same process with Edgar Allan Poe or Jules Verne and more obscure characters, all gathered in a book, LEST, Manuella Eds, 2011.
Alun Williams – “No Paine No Gain.” at: Handel Street Projects, 22/09 – 10/11. Wednesday to Friday 12pm-6pm, Saturday 10am-1pm and by appointment.
14 Florence Street, London N 1