back to Reviews & essays

статья на русском

F. Williams' recent works, essay by I.Marsheva, 1999

Irina Marsheva

В«The brain is the most perfect food we derive from natureВ»

В«Gargantua and PantagruelВ», Francois Rabelais

The creative work of sculptor Frank Williams, a versatile art personality of "The Late Twentieth Century Model", is actually a prototype for a classical "action-adventure" novel. His unique destiny arouses our imagination, even though it is not fully perceived as yet. In his personal exhibits in Russia, over the last few years, he has provoked an outburst of viewers' emotions. This may be attested to by reading any number of Russian and English language publications with articles about his exhibits. "Provoking the viewer's emotions", as he said, is the main creative intent, and a storm of emotions are provoked by being in close proximity to his works, often disrupting our judgement.

Williams' art is a "versatile" reflection of the 'post-modernist' crisis of the myth that the brain is superior to the spirit and the flesh. Sensuality is relieved of guilt imparted by the doubtful rationality of "conceptual art". I.e., a head, independent of the body, is featured in the "Potato Eater" series. Although it is a traditional sculptural form, its helplessness, being separated from the body, makes our flesh crawl! Whereas a singular muscular arm overcoming time and space, in his sculpture "Millennium", emits a vivid sense of independent vitality.

In his type of modeling or "plastics", Frank Williams cannot be type-cast by contemporary terms but rather he makes us roam around the paradigm of terminology from critical realism to surrealism to eclecticism. It is easy to notice the artist's ironic attitude to the image of "traditional artist" which is ascribed to him! But he is consistent in his striving to bring Mankind's active mentality to feeling and understanding 'actual-reality'.

The correlated elusiveness and conditionality of the artist's work are equally deceptive and cannot be interpreted verbally! The idea of getting onto the firm ground of common associations through the consistence of plot fails to reach its aim. The jaw-squeezing taste of the flesh and raw potatoes which penetrates the strata of visual information relates to the strategy of a "palmiest" mastering the infinite space of contemporary art. This strategy is traced throughout the art of the artist. It has become even more evident lately, for Williams' art destiny reminds us of the classical concept of "Rossica" (a term of the 18th and 19th centuries). That is the art of foreigners created under the influence of Russia's reality. This strategy can be traced in the association of the plot of his works, with their classical heritage, as well as appropriating reproductions from classical Russian art ("Profit No.2"). It can also be seen in the traditional reference of the archaic motif of the sacrificial bull ("Escape From Sacrifice") or from the self-sacrificing Prometheus ( "Prometey, Everyday " series).

Characteristic of the end of the century, the apocalyptic syndrome makes an original backdrop of the artist's work. Rendered through Williams 'personal experience it requires a neobaroque grotesqueness with spectacular forms evoking enough strain to place us on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A strain that is further reinforced by the enormity of the pieces and the contrast of works: rendered at once life-like and relatively "sketchy" or both historically authentic and mythological. On equal note is the artist's attention to physical detail even to the dressing of the works fasteners and mounts. The variety of challenging materials and the degree of difficulty to blend all these materials together is inherent to his work.

Spirit and flesh are mutually burdened in Frank Williams' art. Their doom to co-exist determined their mutual deep humanitarian rehabilitation. The commotion and impulsiveness inherent in this tense drama comes to a simple popular wisdom, which he is fond of: "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem!"

By I.Marsheva