Archive | June, 2015

Charles Williams’ beautiful struggle in the Charlotte Agenda

30 Jun

 

charlotte agenda

Charles Williams’ beautiful struggle

“Be careful Charles. Don’t go jumping waves with your cousins” Charles’ father called from the picnic area.

But the boys raced down to the edge of the shore anyway. The sea spray felt cool on their skin as they leapt through the first knee high swells and continued wading into the surf, splashing and laughing in the summer heat. Each successive wave brought with it more laughter as the boys tempted fate and cooled their noon baked skin. The last wave rose up in front of the boys, continuing to grow as it gained momentum, when it reached its peak, it paused, towering over their heads. The wind caught the crest of the wave, spraying a mist of salt water across the sky and creating a shimmering rainbow in the stillness. The boys yelled in anticipation as the full weight of the water came crashing down around them, forcing them under, and tossing them off their feet in a roaring wash of salt, sand and foam.

Then everything was dark.

His cousins popped up laughing exuberantly, wiping the salt out of their eyes and squinting against the glare of the bright afternoon sun. Charles was nowhere to be seen. He would come to, several minutes later, with his father and uncle anxiously leaning over him. Charles sputtered, then coughed. His father smiled with relief and held the breathing boy close, Charles Williams was alive.

There would be several more drowning scares as the years stacked up, and Charles’ fear of the ocean would remain strong, while some other urge kept drawing him to the water. It is this dichotomy, the fear and the attraction, that makes Charles Williams‘ paintings, now on display at the McColl Center for Art and Innovation where Charles is currently an artist-in-residence, so alluring.

“The thing that moves me the most about Charles Williams’ vision is his focus on fear and overcoming that fear.” says Mitchell Kearney, Image Maker.

charles-williams

Fear can be a funny thing. At times it is paralyzingly obvious, but on the whole, fear tends to be more insidious. Hiding in plain sight, rarely acknowledged, but insinuating itself into every decision, tainting every dream with a shadow of anxiety.

Charles is no stranger to fear, he has confronted and overcome it numerous times throughout his life. Like the time he decided to use his artistic talents to pay for college instead of taking the easier route and simply working a part-time job.

“My dad told me ‘I don’t want you to work at McDonald’s or the Grocery Store, not that there is anything wrong with that, but I want you to figure out a way to use your talent.’”

And that is exactly what Charles did, from displaying his art on any shelf in town that would have him, to selling out galleries. Or when he left a successful career as a graphic designer, having won industry awards and made a name for himself, to whole heartedly embrace his passion as an artist. Charles knows what it feels like to be afraid and uncertain at the crossroads of life. He knows what it is to have the hopes and dreams of a community resting on his shoulders. And through all of the progressions; professionally, personally and artistically, the fear of the water still remains.

Yet Charles has always been drawn to the water. He has lived by the water all of his life, and most recently moved with his wife to Charlotte from James Island, where they lived near the beach for the past four years.

Every day…every single day, Charles would go down to the seaside and watch the waves. He would take photographs of the water, analyze the currents, dissect the combination of light and texture, dimension and fluidity within the tides, and see, really see the ocean. See it in all of its color and majesty, all of its power and awe. That “seeing” was Charles’ way of embracing his fear. He is not ashamed to acknowledge his weakness, or embody his desire to overcome it, and in the process produce breathtaking works of art.

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“For his recent exhibition, “Swim,” Charles Williams creates powerful and mesmerizing images of the sea. This force of nature becomes a metaphor for other potentially threatening emotional and societal undertows that must be navigated with courage and skill. An accomplished artist, Williams will continue to probe topics that need further dialogue.” says Carla Hanzal, an Independent Curator.

Charles has channeled his fear of swimming to create some of the most realistic paintings of the Atlantic Ocean I have ever seen. His canvasses are larger than life. Looking at Charles’ renderings of waves curling and thrashing with each other inspires awe and fear.

“All of the works that were in the exhibition, I wanted them to be large…I wanted you to feel like you were there, and doing them small would not have captured the essence of the emotional tie that I have to not being able to swim.” says Charles.

The ocean demands those feelings, commands your respect, and that intensity is palpable in Charles’ paintings. Mother Nature is awesome, in the true and original sense of the word, and fear is not an inappropriate feeling to have when in her grasp.

The depth of Charles’ paintings, the texture of the water, the interplay of light and color, is so realistic you feel like you are in the trough of a swell. On the east coast there are no waves without foam. And if you have ever been to the coasts of North or South Carolina, you know our waters are not crystal clear, or even blue. They are a rolling, roiling, turbulent color that alludes to the sand and life churning just beneath the surface, and they are always covered in foam. Charles captures the essence of our coastal waters with a unique honesty and vivid realism.

“I paint like a water colorist…but I work wet on wet so the cool thing is that I like to scrub out…. so you get all of those layers shining through… which gives it that glow.” Charles says of his particular process for finding the colors to make his portraits of the sea so incredibly life like.

Charles has big things on the horizon. As he continues his journey and faces his fear of the water, he plans to document his progress with photos and video, using these images to tell his story. Charles is currently working on pieces for his upcoming shows, as an artist-in-residence at the McColl Center for Art and Innovation, where he will be through early August.

That means we, as Charlotteans, have the rare opportunity to not only experience Charles’ realistic and imposing paintings of the sea, but to witness the craft and skill by which he brings the ocean into his studio. Stop in, take a few minutes to appreciate the dynamic beauty of his work, and talk with a man who is determined to better himself.

A link to the article: http://www.charlotteagenda.com/5999/charles-williams-beautiful-struggle/

Please contact Morton Fine Art for available work by artist CHARLES WILLIAMS.

Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

(202) 628-2787, mortonfineart@gmail.com, http://www.mortonfineart.com

Morton Fine Art invites you to our Summer Block Party 7/2/15

25 Jun
Join us for our summer block party! 
Morton Fine Art is celebrating the season with a selection of exceptional original artwork by our artists, group hung for your enjoyment. Refreshments will be served.
Block Party 2
Where? 
The block of 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009
When? 
Thursday, July 2nd from 5pm9pm
Participating businesses include:
Morton Fine Art
Commonwealth
And Beige
Hudson & Crane
Pleasant Pops

VICTOR EKPUK interviewed in Hood Museum of Art “Quarterly” Dartmouth College

23 Jun

Victor Ekpuk-Hood Museum Quarterly

 

A Conversation with Victor Ekpuk

Victor Ekpuk’s ephemeral wall drawings demonstrate the artist’s site-specific adaptation of his drawing approach to architectural working surfaces. Created without preliminary sketches or pre-formed ideas, the murals emerge out of the physical spaces they ultimately occupy, functioning much like the symbolic forms that mark sacred spaces and shrine walls in traditional societies in Africa. In this interview conducted in advance of his visit to Dartmouth, Ekpuk discusses his wall drawings with Curator of African Art Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi.

Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi (SN): We are very happy to have your exhibition Auto-Graphics on view at the Hood. We are even more excited that you are creating a wall drawing—the largest of your wall drawings to date— in Lathrop Gallery in conjunction with this exhibition. It is my understanding that it was the context of an earlier exhibition in Amsterdam that sparked what has become a critical aspect of your practice, the ephemeral wall drawings. Can you talk about this experience?

Victor Ekpuk (VE): During a 2008 artist-in-residency program at Thami Mnyele Foundation in the Netherlands, I was invited to participate in an exhibition to mark the launching of ZAM magazine. The exhibition included works of celebrated South African artist Marlene Dumas as well as other artists and poets from Africa. I proposed to do a mural drawing based on the memory of my life in the Netherlands. Amsterdam Central was an encapsulation of my experience as a transient visitor there. I was intrigued by the idea that the drawing that I would spend several hours making on a gallery wall would eventually be erased to make space for another artwork. I saw this as a metaphor for life itself. The knowledge that I exist at one moment in time only to exit for something else to fill the space that I once occupied was a very humbling realization. On one level, Amsterdam Central was just an expression of the essence of the Netherlands from my perspective as a visitor. On another, I was probing an inner dialogue with existential reality.

SN: Memory is central to your practice and even more fundamental to your wall drawings, which is why you call them “drawing memories.” You have framed memory as received, imagined, transposed, and appropriated. Why does memory hold such fascination for you?

VE: I believe that our self-consciousness is borne from memory. Through self consciousness we form our identities. I observe identity as an ephemeral condition that is always in flux. As you rightly noted, memories are constantly being imagined, transposed, and appropriated. So in “drawing memories,” I am trying to capture these various selves in my stream of consciousness. I am very intrigued by the realization that essentially we are all a sum of different parts that are shaped by circumstances. There is always recognition of some personal memory in the collective. Because it is, after all, a human story. Some these memories are what have shaped my life or the lives of people I have come in contact with.

SN: You once told me that your creative process involves moments of quietude in which you dig deep into your memory bank for visual clarity and intellectual materials to work with. How does the creative process involved in the making of the wall drawings differ from your regular studio process?

VE: The process for drawing on the wall differs, in some ways, from studio practice because I prefer it to be spontaneous. I usually prefer not to think about what I am going to draw until I am in the space, at which time I let the space and what I feel at that moment determine what direction the composition will take.

SN: Your wall drawings do not exactly present cohesive narratives or offer formal points of entry for the viewer, although one must admit that there is a logic to the way you amass the script like symbols on the wall surface. Is that a reflection of your understanding of the way memory works?

VE: While drawing, my hand responds to a stream of consciousness, a flow of images from my mind. During this instant I let go and lose myself in the moment. Yes, in a way that’s how our conscious minds work: we exercise our abilities to sift through memories and focus on those that are relevant to immediate attention.

SN: You have also described your wall drawings as performance. Is this because you draw upon nsibidi, the autochthonous body of symbols used in visual and gestured communication by the Ekpe secret society in southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon?

VE: Yes, the performative and the ephemeral aesthetics of nsibidi remain strong influences on my artistic process and production. In the outward display of knowledge, members of the secret society that practice nsibidi usually engage in “mbre,” meaning play of nsibidi. It involves challenging one another to decipher coded graphic signs that are marked on the ground. In other instances, nsibidi signs are used as coded messages, marked either on the ground or on objects, and sometimes as arrangements of objects. It is worth noting that in all of these instances, the signs are always ephemeral. They are often wiped off once the play is over or the message has been received.

SN: Although nsibidi was a point of departure for you at the beginning of your practice, to what extent do you still rely on its repertoire of pictographic and ideographic scripts in your wall drawings?

VE: I’ve found myself using less of nsibidi in my work in general. Having imbibed the nsibidi aesthetic philosophy of focusing on the essence of form or thought to communicate ideas, application of this principle comes in very handy when I approach a composition or design idea. As a means to fully engage this aesthetic philosophy, I made the series of large drawings called Composition Series, which are on view as part of Auto-Graphics, where I explored nsibidi symbols not for their meaning but for their aesthetics and abstract forms.

SN: How many of these wall drawings have you made and how do they differ from each other?

VE: Starting from my first drawing in Amsterdam in 2008 to what I will create at the Hood Museum of Art, I will have made six wall drawings in all. Mickey on Broadway, my second mural, was created in a Washington, D.C., gallery in 2011. It considered my identity as both African and American. It was partly mixed media, and included five Mickey Mouse–shaped plastic bowls placed above African-inspired forms. Meditations on Memories, also created in a gallery in 2011, was more abstract and contemplative. It was the first time I worked strictly with white chalk on a black wall. This was also the first time I was actively involved in the erasure of my wall drawing. In other works—such as Drawing Memories at Appalachian State University in 2013, and an untitled drawing at Krannert Art Museum and Ode to Joy at Arkansas Art Center, both in 2014—I was more interested in capturing the intrinsic aesthetics of objects and forms. Ode to Joy, a dialogue with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, was my first attempt at drawing music. With headphones on my ears, I attempted to translate the imagery formed from the elation I felt. I was like the conductor of an orchestra, enthralled in raptures of violins, kettledrums, cellos, trumpets, cymbals, and the roaring voices in harmonious chants as the crescendos built and ecstasies exploded in my heart.

The exhibition Auto-Graphics: Works by Victor Ekpuk, on view through August 2, was organized by Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and curated by Allyson Purpura. It was partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. The exhibition’s presentation at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, was generously supported by the Leon C. 1927, Charles L. 1955, and Andrew J. 1984 Greenebaum Fund and the Cissy Patterson Fund

 

Please contact Morton Fine Art for a pdf version of this interview or click the following link: http://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/docs/2015summerquarterlywebready.pdf

Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

(202) 628-2787, mortonfineart@gmail.com, http://www.mortonfineart.com

Shirin Neshat: Facing History at the Hirshhorn Museum

18 Jun

hirshhorn logo

SHIRIN NESHAT: FACING HISTORY

Still from Shirin Neshat's Munis, 2008
Shirin Neshat, Still from Munis, 2008. © Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

May 18 to September 20, 2015 (Second Level)
In her mesmerizing films and photographs, Shirin Neshat (Iranian-American, b. Qazvin, 1957) examines the nuances of power and identity in the Islamic world—particularly in her native country of Iran, where she lived until 1975. Shirin Neshat: Facing History presents an array of Neshat’s most compelling works, illuminating the points at which cultural and political events have impacted her artistic practice. Included are the “Women of Allah” photographs that catapulted the artist to international acclaim in the 1990s; lyrical video installations, which immerse the viewer in imagery and sound; and two monumental series of photographs, The Book of Kings, 2012, and Our House Is on Fire, 2013, created in the wake of the Green Movement and the Arab Spring. Commenting on freedom and loss, Neshat’s deeply humanistic art is at once personal, political, and allegorical.

http://hirshhorn.si.edu/collection/current-exhibitions/#collection=shirin-neshat