Frame 61

Tess Williams

Frame 61
Tess Williams

Background: I live and work in central London, which is where I was born and grew up. Because of this I have always been spoilt with exhibitions to see and new artists to discover. I love looking at things – as a visual person it's how I learn so I go to see as many shows as possible. I'm very much a Londoner but would love to move away for a while at some point to one of my other favourite arty cities: Berlin, L.A or Barcelona. 

Materials wrapped and draped: In my work I'm trying to explore what a painting is beyond its frontal surface, a painting as object.

I'm constantly testing how far I can push my work towards textiles, collage or installation, without them ceasing to exist as 'paintings'. I aim to push past the boundaries of the conventional canvas/stretcher format in order to amplify the physical presence of painting. Deconstructing the components of a traditional painting and reconfiguring them into new forms. It's all about play, experimentation, composition and physical form.

Falling/peeling off: I like for there to be a sense of impermanence with many of my works, especially the ones which are installed directly on to walls. When the materiality and structure of a painting have more room to take on naturally occurring characteristics the works engage more directly with the space and walls they are hung on. For example, when a painting is allowed to curl and twist against a wall, it reveals shadows and irregularities in its shape. Details like these emphasise the tactile nature of the materials and allow them to take on sculptural traits, which is key to my practice.

The viewer: I hope the viewer reacts to my work in some kind of physical way. I want my works to be raw and rugged, but also tactile and sensitive – so hopefully people feel drawn in to inspect the materials closely and pick up on all the small details. I also hope they maybe inquisitive and want understand how the paintings are made. The larger works I hope are physically grounding and give viewers a sense of their own presence.

Process/inspiration: I work a lot on a small scale before making bigger pieces. This gives me a chance to experiment broadly with materials and ideas before scaling them up. I make a lot of collage and photography - I’m forever taking photos of buildings wrapped in tarpaulin, decaying walls and derelict sites.

Studio/routine: I'm always at the studio early; I'm a morning person so it's my favourite time of the day. I live five minutes away from my studio which is amazing, especially for London.

My studio building is such a great community of artists - there are always chats with people throughout the day and people coming in and out of my studio, which means I never get lonely. My studio itself is a perfect size for me right now. It's big enough that I have a dry work end with my desk and big armchair and then the rest of the space for my painting. Sometimes it’s so chaotic that you can’t see the floor, other times it's more serene and contemplative.

Titles: My titles vary so much. Some works I don't want to be determined by a title so I just use initials. I think often, with abstract works, the viewer forms an opinion or a response about the piece from what they read of the title. Other times I will be thinking of the title as I'm making – and if a work has a descriptive title then that is usually the case.

Art influences: I am as much an art lover as an art maker so I constantly love to look at other artist's work.

A few young contemporary artists that I particularly like at the moment are N.Dash, Eric Mack and Gedi Sibony. Some better-known artists that I have admired for a long time are Robert Rauschenberg, Steve Parrino, Franz Kline and David Hammons. On a more personal level my biggest influences have been three of my tutors - one from my BA and two from my MA. I have been very lucky to have such great teachers along the way.

Future/shows: The next show I’m in is at Heike Strelow Gallery in Frankfurt called 'Black Paintings' which runs from April until the end of June. I then have a couple of group shows in London over the summer. I'm also really looking forward to spending large amounts of time in my studio over the next couple of months as I have just started a new body of work which I feel will really push my practice forward.

Artist website

Publishing date of this interview 29/04/16