Monday, 3 June 2013

A Visit to the Artists House: Michael Williamson

Last Friday afternoon was an unusually warm Autumn day when I dropped in on "Raw" artist Michael Williamson for a chat about his ceramic work processes.
Raw art (art brut), also known as outsider art  is a loose term for art seen as created apart from the usual or expected norms of mainstream art where we can categorise Michael's work for want of any other term.  He shrugs and is non-committal about any labelling, explaining he was described this way by Steve Fox who showed Williamson's work a number of times at his Mogo Raw Arts and Blues gallery in southern New South Wales.

Michael Williamson's workspace is a room containing a clever protected area that looks like an inflatable swimming pool with two work benches in it - the sides inflate to 3 or 4 feet and protects the surrounds from clay and water.   

Michael's clay sculptures consist mainly of head & torsos; brightly coloured, they are often armless and one-eyed.
Some have amusing titles such as Uncle Dave's Crack-pipe Dreams (pictured at left from my collection) - a 35cm tall one-eyed spotted creature with pendulous breasts that was featured in exhibitions at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery 2011 & Kerri Lowe Gallery 2012.
Other works can be sinister or simply odd but all pieces have various degrees joy about them and are so full of life that belies the often troubled times of this artist.

Meeting Michael outside of his housing commission flat - the "best ghetto in the country" he tells me - next to tranquil harbour water, I find him in a quiet mood and I notice his exceptional good manners.   He lives modestly with a comfortable lounge with an old television surrounded by his statues in various stages of completion.
Unlike other ceramicists, who bisque fire then glaze and fire again, Michael creates his works, waits up to 8 months for them to dry, spends up to 2 weeks painting the glaze and then carries each one down 3 flight of narrow stairs to be picked up for their one and only firing.  Sometimes he does not know whether the work will survive the furnace and his many hours work ends up in pieces.  He is well practiced and it doesn't happen very often nowadays and he tells me that it doesn't upset him as much as people may think and he explained to me that he gets the best results from the glazes by doing it this way, especially over large surfaces whereas a bisque fired piece would look mottled.
He is right - his colours are vibrant and even giving them pop art look.  The sculptures are tactile as well and I can't help but pat them as we talk.
The final product and waiting for the kiln - from the left: The Prisoner, Out of Whack & I am Lucifer - in the background at the right is an as yet to be named piece ready for the kiln

Femininity is next in line for glazing

from the left - foreground is Spaced Out and Handsome; behind: Devil's Haircut;  The Sky is Falling (middle)  and far right, Target
Before heading off, I did a quick head count of the fun group: 6 finished and ready for the galleries with about 15 ready to glaze.  From about 5kg to 15, Michael Williamson's works are collected by many people including a national gallery curator, another collector has close to 20 pieces around a property in NSW and three MW originals reside at my place where they blend in nicely with our collection and receive a pat now and again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too cool! MW is still my favorite sculptor.