Review Page BUZZ Magazine

ART

MARK WILLIAMS 'IT'S NOT UNUSUAL' GPF Gallery, George Street, Newport.
Sat 20 Sept - Sun 18 Oct.

The everyday and mundane don't sound like the best starting points for a work of art, but they are the most obvious attributes of the subjects chosen by Mark Williams, who has his first exhibition in Newport this autumn.

Williams' not inconsiderable talent lies in pinpointing and depicting the essential character of his surroundings and the people who live there. As he proudly declares: "My own geographical location is South-East Wales, the Ancient kingdom of Gwent, or the former county of Monmouthshire, if you prefer. It's a place that inspires me as an artist and, in painting pictures about it, I endeavour to present a mirror on the world".

His mirror isn't flat but warped, perspective and proportion are distorted and the colours exaggerated, creating a twisted depiction of reality. Many of the paintings are packed with arresting details: wonky sheds, the reflection of an electricity pylon in murky water, clotheslines and churches; allotments and ad-hoc construction that contrast with peaceful hillsides of heather and fern. Even the pictures that initially seem devoid of interest can be a micro soap opera, condensing the lives and loves of people like us.

In one painting we see an elderly couple at home. The wife sits in the foreground but also in shadow. We feel the weight of her old, sagging flesh against a darkened wall. Crossed legs and clasped hands suggest defensiveness but she faces the viewer, still engaged with the world. Her husband faces away from us, only brought to her attention by a soft highlight from a nearby window. With his cup of tea and his wireless, his bad leg resting on a low stool and a pillow at his back, he's in his own little world. He is the king of this tiny domain, she the chamberlain and real power.

For those outside Gwent, outside the slow world of the old valleys, Williams' mirror becomes a telescope, and one well worth peering through.

MEI LEWIS
(Reproduced courtesy of Buzz magazine, December 2003)

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