On the page of her personal website labeled “Artist’s Statement,” Patricia Williams cites a quote from French Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir: “To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.”
Joy, whimsical wit, and aesthetic beauty are exactly what Williams provides in Hidden Things Revealed, her latest exhibit. Located at the Touchstone Gallery through the end of January, the collection demonstrates an impressive variety of abstract natural scenes done in watercolor, shedding light on the beautiful nature of common things around us.
Upon entering the gallery, the boldness of Williams’ works stands out immediately, her daring color choices and rugged style juxtaposed with stark white walls and framings. The first work to strike me was titled “Grandma’s in the Kitchen.” In title and appearance, this painting intricately captures the fondest aspects of memory. Williams’ postmodern twist on the familiar still life form generates a simplistically ornate piece that flaunts her mastery of color and texture through this difficult medium. Delicate layers of green slowly transition in hue from dark to light with yellow blemishes that indicate the reality of imperfection in the past, for better or for worse.
Williams’ art reflects joy in other ways as well, most notably through the sense of humor she puts on display in many of her paintings. Although its mottled background and underutilization of the artist’s ability to blend colors make “Some Melted Butter and We’re Ready to Go” one of my least favorite works in the gallery, the humble comedy she applies to its title was irrefutable.
True abstracts make up the majority of Williams’ exhibit. Her most successful works manage to balance interpretive color washes blended into patterns and intricate details. But when the former dominates the latter, she risks losing the central qualities that make her art interesting. One of Williams’ finest specimens on display, titled “Flight Plan,” depicts butterflies and a flower with an intricacy that rivals those of the Audubon society. Around these figures are seemingly random lines that fall, as if by happenstance, into a fascinating shape that interrupts the still image. Seemingly random splatters and drips of paint down the page demonstrate unorganized beauty, mimicking the flight path of a butterfly.
What also struck me in many of Williams’ paintings were the original sketch lines and intentional paint drips she left in the works. This technique initially makes paintings such as “Things Are Not What They May Seem” appear unfinished. But these remaining pencil lines are not only intentional, but meaningful as well. Each stroke shows a work in progress, a reflection of the way nature truly is.
The abstract quality of Williams’ art often leaves the tone the she attempts to invoke in viewers highly ambiguous. Despite its title, “Sunshine Makes Me Happy” initially elicits confusion. This multi-toned deconstruction of plants spiraling apart is subtlety laced with Williams’ pencil marks, which ultimately seems to trace the work’s journey from her mind to paper.
In Hidden Things Revealed, plants, insects, and sea-life become beautiful amalgamations of color. Even when painting the smallest of objects, like a plum, she weaves large stories that capture our imagination. In doing so, Williams appears to be gifting viewers the compelling realization that her works are theirs to finish. She wants thought put into these astounding depictions of the natural world. Because nature belongs to all people, Williams seems to say, it is ours to perceive.
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