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Interview: British Expressionist Fiona J. Williams

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Interview Banner: Fiona J. Williams. The Artist written in yellow on royal blue. To the left, a detail of a self portrait by Fiona J. Williams

Fiona J. Williams work has been selected for a solo exhibition at Gallery Sorelle Sciarone, due to dyadic nature of her work. Each painting in her oeuvre manages to formally bring big issues to a core visualisation. Fiona art marries the deep abysses of the human condition with clear lines and gestural colours.
We are proud to share Fiona's work soon. Here is an interview with the lovely Fiona.

 

Interview: British Expressionist Fiona J. Williams

Who? Fiona J. Williams

 

What? Artist, Expressionist Painter

 

When? Early 21s century (2020)

 

Where? United Kingdom

 

Why? Getting to know Fiona, before her upcoming solo exhibition:

 

 

HUMANS AT THEIR MOST VULNERABLE FORM

Detail of Portrait of Fiona J. Williams, one of her newest works: I’ll Think It Over (2020)

Detail of Portrait of Fiona J. Williams, one of her newest works: I’ll Think It Over (2020)

Fiona's formative elements

1.     Please tell us something about yourself.

I’m the youngest of seven children. My parents were both from Jamaica, but I was born in England, in a town just outside London. I studied in London, doing a degree in Textile Design and moved here not long after finishing. My favourite colour is Navy Blue!

 

Tascha: Navy Blue is such a powerful colour and we will see it often in her work.

 

2.     How did you get into what you do right now? Please tell us more about your journey?

I grew up in a very creative household, surrounded by fabrics, sewing machines, leftover paint, pens and paper. I saw other people being creative and was naturally drawn to express myself that way too. My mother was a highly skilled Designer Maker and could make anything from lingerie to a wedding gown. She would also randomly do interesting little sketches. Most of my elder siblings were aspiring artists; writers, painters and designers.

 

Aged seven, I won an art prize at school, which fed my desire to share my work. However, I was raised in a strict religious sect, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and my love of art often put me at odds with their strict codes which discouraged any artistic endeavours. They also disapproved of any kind of association with people from outside the sect and of Higher Education. I eventually disassociated myself from the organisation at the cost of losing all contact with my former friends and fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses. They comprised almost my entire social circle at that point. I was then able to pursue further education. 

After I completed my degree, I worked in various roles, including for a gallery that sold antique textiles and pre 1960’s vintage clothing, a property renovation company, a bespoke rug designer and an interior designer. I continued to work on a variety of my own creative projects during this period, but I decided to resume painting in 2018 and have made it the major focus of my creativity since then.

 

3.     Who are your role models?

My youthful ambition was to be like  Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and live in a garret in Paris, painting, smoking cigarettes and drinking absinthe!

 

As my artistic knowledge developed and broadened other influences and role models emerged:

Lois Mailou Jones, who worked with both textiles and painting, explored a variety of styles and techniques but always had a distinctive style of her own.

 

Edvard Munch, Amadeo Modigliani and Egon Schiele, all technically and aesthetically amazing but they could also evoke great feeling and emotion with their work.

Modigliani, especially for his use of line and colour to convey mood and expression.

Schiele for his dynamic painting style and often powerful emotional content.

Munch for the thoughtful force of his work and the directness with which he expressed himself.

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat for his prolific nature, incredible original talent and ingenious ways of expressing himself, both on canvas and in sketchbooks.

 

Frida Kahlo - need I say more?

 

Tascha: Fiona's art looks at a lot of expressionist  and portrait painters. I have added links to the artists so readers can look up these amazing people. We see a lot of each of these artists influence in her work. But she also intertwines different visuals from our collective consciousness. Like Byzantine and Christian themes with this well versed art knowledge in her paintings.

 

Detail "Meet my Gaze" by Fiona Williams

Detail "Meet my Gaze" by Fiona Williams

Fiona's art in detail

4.     What inspires you Fiona?

Emotion. Colour. Light. Texture.

 

Tascha: the essence in all your work! :)

 

5.     Please tell us about your art.

Contemporary Expressionism; often inspired by dreams, significant emotional conflicts or experiences. For example, my Who’s That Girl series is a visual exploration of cultural heritage and identity. I scrutinise these through an exploration of both physical appearance and my own internal dialogue.

 

Tascha: We are very priveliged to be able to view your exploration in your work. It is very candid and powerful. I am always struck with the  resounding amount of energy that reverberates in each art work you make. 

 

6.     What’s your most memorable experience as an artist?

The times when I’ve managed to capture the moment of an emotion or feeling in someone else’s life that they may not have even realised they were feeling themselves at the time. For example, I painted an elderly friend of mine not long after he had major surgery. When we look back at the painting, it totally captures him at a time when he was feeling incredibly unsure and vulnerable - something he never normally shows or admits.

 

Tascha: this is so powerful. We often think in very able-ist ways about ourselves and society. We were hiding or disregarding ourselves or others when we are, or they are very vulnerable. 

I love that you have caught this 'invisible' side of your friend. We should all make more room for ourselves and others for resting, healing and feelings.  

 

7.     What’s your greatest fear for the arts?

That the art world establishment will fail to fully open up its doors to a broad enough variety of creatives.

 

Tascha: in many ways, we (speaking as a privileged white woman) have failed the arts by not actively opening doors and creating safe spaces. Luckily we have been steadily moving away from THE ART CANON, which is linear, euro-, and male-centric. The choice of this gallery to specialise in paintings is also an act of exclusion. Fiona's enigmatic drawings are what first caught my attention. When I reached out to her, it was on the basis to ask if she makes painting as well. She did but was not at that moment actively paintings. Her pen drawings are radiantly enigmatic. Yet the medium was a (self-imposed) barrier to featuring Fiona. This answer has made me think a lot of how barriers are created, imposed and are ultimately self-imposed by establishments.    

 

8. Looking back, what’s one thing you wish you understood better before you ever got started as an artist?

That I shouldn’t allow other people’s or life’s conventional demands or opinion to put me off pursuing my artistic passion or vision.

Detail "Silke" by Fiona J. Williams.

Detail "Silke" by Fiona J. Williams. It is such a treat to see the brush strokes capturing Fiona's portrait figures.

Art Strategies

9.     What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey as an artist?

Practicality, persistence and a willingness to put myself and my work out there.

 

 

10.     What keeps you going when things get tough?

I try my best to focus on solutions rather than problems and to adapt accordingly.

 

11.     What is the one thing you wish people knew more about art?

That it’s for everyone!

"[Art] is for everyone!"

Detail "Untitled" by Fiona J. Williams. Working from a dark background creating a portrait with lighter colours.

The makings of the Artsist Fiona J. Williams

Fiona had taken 100 years of Expressionists before her and made reverberating paintings with seemingly clean lines. Her portraits seem created from, precise and elegant minimalist lines at first sight. Upon closer inspection, the painting carries the same energy Frans Hals was famous for. Fiona's paintings are so powerful as in each composed individual the figures reverberates life and emotion through the big and small gestural painting strokes. Fiona's models aren't suggesting physical movement and life, as Frans Hals's figures were. Instead, each of Fiona's figure is a seemingly still and composed individual, but bursting with bottled big and small essences of humanity.

 

Fiona's exhibition curated by Emi Eleode will be going live 2 November 2020.

 

Thank you Fiona for taking the time to share this with us. It was a true delight getting to know you and your process. I also enjoyed learning more about the artists you mentioned and gaining the ability to see how you weave their influences and your voice together into a work that is a Fiona J. Williams piece of art!

Love,

Tascha Sciarone

Gallery Manager at

Gallery Sorelle Sciarone


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Comments

Zaliya Adamu
13 days ago

My family and I are proud to see your artwork chosen among many. You truly represent your family’s talent and Africans/ Blacks as a whole. May the creator continue to bless you, your family, and your work.

Tascha Sciarone
11 days ago

Dear Zaliya
Thank you so much for the kind words for Fiona. You are a very lovely person Zaliya for using your words to encourage and uplift those around you. May you be blessed as you bless others.

Fiona
10 days ago

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and touching words! I really appreciate you taking the time to read the interview and comment.
Best wishes, FJW