Graham Williams

quote GW portrait

Biography

When I was a boy I wanted so much to be an artist. I don’t know what prompted me to want this for I had no idea who artists really were as people. Drawing and looking at art, almost entirely in books, were one of two passions I had. The other was looking at and studying the natural world. I wanted to keep my study of nature as a private pleasure, though I did dream of being a game warden in Africa or of joining Jacques Cousteau. My wish to be an artist was stronger but was confused by knowing that it isn’t enough to draw well. Doing things well, even drawing, is a skill. To be an artist there has to be some underlying belief that demands to be worked on and expressed. I was busy forming my beliefs and my understanding of the world.

My major schooling was at Grammar School from which, for a year, I was released to the local art school. Drawing nudes, aged fourteen, was an eye opener. The shock lasted a couple of weeks after which I was much more concerned with where I sat and whether I liked the pose from that point. We drew formal still lives as well, of things incongruously displayed together – a skull, a violin, a box, and always drapes. Sometimes there were some flowers or a plaster bust.

Later I attended various evening classes that included drawing, Darwinian evolution and the various subjects for an advertising qualification. I found work in a studio in Fleet Street where lettering artists sat in rows and the studio manager was on a dais elevated above us, and we all wore white coats. I began as a messenger boy and progressed through most of the departments.

Commercial art was a palliative that quieted the need to be creative and I both learnt from and enjoyed designing commercially. I moved on to work in publishing and became a director of a book publisher and the associated fine art gallery. The work was interesting yet it wasn’t enough and I left to plough my own furrow.

My own work, that began as a hobby and progressed to be more serious, used many of the same skills. To hold a fine printed book that I had designed, set the type and printed by hand did give considerable pleasure, and still does. But it too was a palliative, more the product of skill than of art, and usually there was a creative team involved rather than a single vision.

Original prints quelled the increasingly restless feelings far more; they were my work alone and they came out of me. Once I understood both that I wanted to, and could, make the image in solid material in three dimensions, rather than engrave a view of it, I was lost. I had to make sculpture. An innate ability to make things coupled with a driving desire to make art and at last, apparently, the skill to bring my ideas together in three dimensional sculptures, was so completely demanding there was no debate. I changed my medium to sculpture. Somewhere along the way I had become the artist that I had longed to be as a child.

I live in an exciting time in history and I am content to be of now. My images involve balance and movement, time and space, and my pleasure in looking at the natural world is included in my work. How we feel seems as real as how we look and it is with feelings, not with representation, that I am involved. We know our world in so many ways; often so subtle we can’t put it into words. We know nearness - of a lover, of danger, of something else alive. We strain to know nearness in the dark and we are peaceful knowing it in the light. As a butterfly alights on a flower we understand more than the colours and the form that we see, we look quickly for we know it will fly away. These abstract understandings are the emotional element in much of my work and while there is no representation of nature many of my sculptures are obviously organic. I have always looked and somewhere those images are stored away, ready for random recall. I look for the sake of seeing, not to record what I see but the experience of seeing and what I understand by it. My work seeks simplicity, to be a form from which everything unnecessary has been stripped away. Yet the forms are somehow complex, not to be comprehended at the first glance. They reflect the experience of looking. Through my work I seek to involve the imagination and attention of those who are willing to look at it, and also to lift their spirits.

Graham Williams