Visual artist Martin Williams grounds the divine in new show From the Same Earth

Monday 01st, December 2014 / 19:10
By Safiya Hopfe
Visual artist Martin Williams takes a look at the dynamic of human existence. Illustration: Martin Williams

Visual artist Martin Williams takes a look at the dynamic of human existence.
Illustration: Martin Williams

VANCOUVER — Martin Williams’s pursuit of answers and excellence in visual expression seems to be driven more by an insatiable hunger than systematic motivation. This isn’t to say his madness lacks method – technicality is as much of a priority as exploration of the abstract – but the electric passion with which he attacks ideas, figures, and forms breathes unmistakable energy into each life-size canvas he produces. Appropriately enough, considering that it is honest representation of humanity and physical life in its most instinctive state that drive his work; it inspires a simultaneously delicate and intense equilibrium of drama and raw realism.

His newest show, From the Same Earth, is a collection of work pulled together upon the founding concept of the female spirit, in a decisive context of divinity, power, and the circle of life. Various examples of Williams’ work on the human figure’s natural interactions, immaculate in mechanical finesse and spellbinding in spirit, collaborate to, as he describes, “embody ethereal, femininity, earthly beauty, that binds us all.”

Fascination with the implications of social realism lie at the heart of each of his compositions. In his own words, “What I often see are examples of patterns around me, that seem to have some fascination for me, and I recognize that I’m looking at some kind of an orchestration. Some kind of a relationship which is almost more historical in context- although I’m not historicizing it… and it’s interesting to me that people shape their environments the way they do, it’s interesting how we make groups, how we interact. And just the dynamics of human existence.” With this new exhibition a more decisive and, especially in its connective demonstration, idiosyncratic theme takes the wheel. A light is shone on human existence through the perspective of women, “at times vulnerable and other times [that] speak to the inner goddess: the Lilith that creates and receives us at death.” Birth magic exists as a topic of in depth visual conversation, in an enthralling synthesis of aesthetic allure and thought-provoking substance.

After all, more than a product of tools and applied ideas, art is a tool that depends on balance of the abstract and the relatable—and one of the world’s most valuable tools, at that. In discussing what his life’s calling means to him, and pondering his own artistic dialogue revolving around “birth magic,” Williams questions, as many have, humanity’s motives in creation, as a craft as well as an intuitive compulsion. He says of an art history course he took in the ‘80s: “So as the course went on, and we’re looking at the Egyptians actually building mountains in the desert, and putting royalty in these womb-like areas to try and regenerate them. And that became really symbolic to me… why do we form these representations for ourselves, why are we interested in the afterworld, why do we worry about where we come from, where we’re going. That’s very much a process and a dynamic in why I’m depicting images in my time, to project them into the future.”

He may balance his endeavors as a creator with a comfortable career as a massage therapist, as well as a teacher in anatomy, a subject undeniably close to the roots from which his art grows; but his and his palette’s particular journey has never been anything short of fervid. By the time he was halfway through high school, his sights had long since been set on nothing less than mastery of the age-old techniques of legends, as he had seen glistening before him between the pages of hardcover art history texts. In the decades that followed, occupying studios from shore to Canadian shore, as well as sporadic stops in the Southern US and great cities of Europe, Williams has uncovered inspiration under every rock – and with every paintbrush – he has managed to wrap his fingers around. In his ambitious youth he aimed to produce “work meant to project three to five hundred years into the future,” and he is definitely on the right track.

From the Same Earth: A New Solo Exhibition of Work by Martin Williams opens at The Fall December 6.

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