Humans At Their Most Vulnerable Form
Solo Exhibition: Fiona J. Willaims. Curated by Emi Eleode.
Fiona J. Williams ’s work has been selected for a solo-exhibition, due to the dyadic nature of her work. Each painting in her oeuvre manages to formally bring big issues to a core visualisation. Fiona's art marries the deep abysses of the human condition with clear lines and gestural colours. Emi Eleode is a young journalist, curator and visual artist, that has curated this exhibition for Gallery Sorelle Sciarone.
Solo Exhibition: Fiona J. Williams
Introduction by curator Emi Eleode
Humans At Their Most Vulnerable Form is an exhibition featuring the paintings of British fine art and expressionist artist Fiona, J Williams. It explores the complexities of human emotion as a continually changing entity and its impact on our daily life.
Our homes have shaped our view of the world. Our upbringing and the society we live in, continuing to evolve through time. Fiona highlights this in her paintings. She engages with the experiences of everyday life, including the sensations sparked by her own physical and emotional environment, whether through personal and familial interactions or from her understanding of the world.
Fiona’s Personal Background Society’s Current State
Fiona grew up in a creative household. Fabrics, paper, paint and threads surrounded her childhood. She saw these mediums being used by her mother and older siblings from a young age. However, the creative environment was at odds with the rigid and strict rules of the religious sect she was raised in and had to follow. As the child of two immigrants who came to the UK, migrating to a foreign country has its hurdles that many families can relate to. Where there is a need to assimilate to a new culture, but at the same time, upholding traditions of your parent’s country of birth in order to have that sense of connection and keep in touch with your identity. This difference of background can cause varying emotional turmoil in those who have migrated.
Many studies have been conducted on the effects of migration and mental health. Migrants are often subjected and exposed to triggering moments that affect their overall wellbeing. These traumatic and upsetting experiences include racism, xenophobia, abuse by law enforcement officers, detention and deportation, discrimination, urban violence, separation from family, ‘substandard living conditions and instability.’
Many things are going on right now that is shifting into the balance of our world. It’s throwing each one of us in a mental territory we might not be accustomed to, creating feelings that are heightened by our surroundings. People may feel powerless and that they can no longer rely on established structures and ways of thinking like before. Some words that have a deep meaning right now include transformation, revolution, regression, innocence, serenity, disruptiveness and peace.
What we’ve clung so hard in the past is shaken. A veil has been lifted on old notions, what was deemed fact, was never so. Long-established systems need to change to reflect on our world. Those who have been oppressed and repressed can no longer be made to feel inferior and like an ‘other.’ As Brigid Delaney wrote for the Guardian, this year has a “weariness from having borne it all – experiencing things (or rather in lockdown, experiencing the lack of things), that we never imagined we’d face.”
At the age of seven, Fiona won an prize in her primary school’s painting and drawing competition, sparking her love and passion for the arts and design. Her Jamaican heritage often inspires her work. Being Black, British, her family relationships, the freedom from the strict religious sect, and childhood feelings of being unheard and unseen– both at home and in the wider world, all influence the work she creates. Fiona can put her thoughts and feelings on canvas with a freedom that writing does not provide. Painting is a means of expression for the artist—a creative outlet where she can be her most vulnerable and free self.
"Can our Wounds be made Golden?" and "Riding the Waves" by Fiona J. Williams.
Use Of Colour, Technique And The Human Emotion In Fiona’s Paintings
Many of Fiona’s paintings are uniquely recognisable for the vast openness of the subject’s eyes. They are the windows to their innermost selves. We mainly see this feature in the ‘Faces and Feelings’ series. It is a body of work that looks at how the inner emotions are expressed and etched on a person’s face, while her ongoing ‘Who’s That Girl’ series, is a visual exploration of identity, family and ancestry. Drawing inspiration from her own life, from friends and family, acquaintances and even strangers, Fiona’s paintings have a very personal feel to them without any frivolous touches to distract us. We are primarily focused on the subject’s face in all its honest form without pretence. The colours used in her paintings evoke the mood of the sitter and illuminate the atmosphere. They provide a poetic kind of energy.
The acrylic paints mainly used in Fiona’s artworks provide the quality, feel and texture of oil paints but with the malleableness and potential for achieving a specific type of delicacy and lightness attainable with watercolours. The quick-drying nature of acrylic paints provides a spontaneity and immediacy for the artist, intensifying the underlying emotional aspect of her work in a variety of colours reflecting the world of her subjects.
Fiona’s paintings represent intimate areas in ourselves. They are a relevant reflection of this year. One could say that 2020 is a year of great awakening. What previously had been hidden away, is being revealed and exposed. People are confronting and challenging indoctrinated teachings and philosophies. We’re becoming more aware of the world, unburdened by the usual distractions of everyday life as many things have been shut down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. It’s created a vacuum many of us are not familiar with, opening up a space to be more attuned to not only our situation but our external surroundings.
The ten featured paintings were chosen for their profound way of drawing us into the emotional world of the sitters. We are curious to find out what they are thinking about, who these individuals are and what their story is. Fitting with the theme of this exhibition and the unprecedented times we are currently experiencing.
The 10 Paintings
"Riding the waves" (2019)
In a time of great uncertainty, it might feel like we are swirling about in a big pool of water, trying to stay afloat to swim towards safer and dry shores. The greyish, green and blue hues of the seas with touches of white, show the forces of nature at work in its most unpredictable form. It feels like a dream one might have where you are swimming across the currents reaching for something that gives meaning to your life– a sort of awakening to your worldly reality...continue reading
"Can our wounds be made Golden?" (2019)
A luminous golden halo encircling the woman whose eyes are closed shut as if fast asleep. The magic light that feels like a healing process is occurring. On close inspection, you can see the various wounds on her body, including that painful looking red gash on the top of her left cheek. The flecks of molten gold are like a plaster to shrink the gap. Her injuries are signified by prominent red tones throughout the rest of her body as seen under her neck, center of chest, under her right breast, and on the tops of both her thighs. Her right thigh is especially bloody. As a viewer, you wonder how she got all those wounds. You hope that the spots of gold make it all go away...continue reading.
It’s as if the subject realized something important mid-conversation, her wide eyes saying everything while her mouth is shut. She’s far away in another place. But actually, it’s the inner world of her mind hard at work. You can see it from the creepy and angry looking shadow of another face at the top of her head, looking at us with displeasure from the sharpness of the eyes and the frowning expression. Fiona has cleverly interwoven two mediums to add texture to the painting...continue reading
Who is that girl? Masks 4
The big dark eyes immediately draw you into the painting. The deep blackness of the iris and the dark pupils become one. They are in stark contrast with the illuminated witness of the eyeball. The tiny white squares at the top of the iris are a reflection from another light source, like a ring light pointing on the face. A bright light that fades everything else away except from the subject’s face and a fragment of the white shirt with bleeding light blue stripes on the left side. The mask of her face looks like it was cut off abruptly from the framing at the top of her head, where the hair was supposed to be...continue reading
Meet my Gaze (2019)
The simplicity of this portrait painting has a calming and soothing effect. An older woman caught in the moment– a break from her train of thought. As the saying goes, eyes are the window to the soul. You can know what a person is like in their honest form from the look of their eyes. The eyes cannot lie as well as the mouth when we open it to say things that people want to hear. There’s something innocent and uncomplicated from her expression, The slight tilt of the head suggests someone has tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention. She’s not annoyed by it but welcomes it...continue reading
Ghost of You
Blurry, ghostly, undefined. Memories of what was and what’s to be. Which out of the three faces is the portraited woman? The first face represents a sad moment with a look of disappointment and gloom. Her eyes focused hard on something but not necessarily something in the present. The fixed expression is frozen in time. She’s not with us...continue reading
Her face and background are indistinguishable. That faint, pencil sketch outlining the left side of the face and neck adds a slight definition to what is almost unclear to see. Typically, a portrait might have a composition where the face is centred in the middle, defined by an invisible border. However, this subject’s face has been spread wide across the canvas, blended together with various colours (black, blue, grey, red, brown and pink), used to highlight the different structures of her face such as the cheeks which have a stripe of pink and white that you could get from using a makeup blush and highlighter...continue reading
Portrait Of Silke In The Morning
Even though the title of the painting suggests that it was done to capture the subject in the morning light, to me, it reminds me of the night. Brushstrokes of light yellowish, white specks on the deep blue background look like stars in the midnight sky. The subject is looking ahead at something in a calm manner. The gentle, soft smile, lightly lifting her cheek, conveys her thoughts. She’s at ease and in the moment, thinking about something agreeable to her from the tranquil demeanour...continue reading
I'll think it over (2019)
This painting of a portrait is one of the few paintings that incorporate furniture or clear background. The colourful red sofa with blue, green, white and orange patterns she is sitting on reminds me of the kind of designs you could find in a Moroccan souk. This painting is one example of Fiona’s passion for textiles which she uses as a way to contextualise the psychological and emotional content she explores...continue reading
Three faces conjoined as one; each with a different disposition. A detached, nonchalant expression is the primary image our eyes are immediately drawn to as it is the centre of the subject’s face. The different shades of brown paint highlight the wrinkles on her forehead, bags under the eyes and deep set smile-lines. A face that shows the various spectrum of human emotions such as happiness (smile lines), to stress (forehead wrinkles). The first face...continue reading
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More about the Curator: Emi Eleode
Emi Eleode is a London based journalist that focusses on arts and media. She is the writer and creator behind Art History Talks on Instagram.
Click on her picture to read her interview.