photo: Inge Ybema
Mike Williams’s interest in fish, fishing, and the habitats where fish may be found, has been the primary subject of his work throughout his career. His vibrant and bold abstract paintings are expressionistic and loose, with a palette that ranges widely from earth tones to pure cadmium colors. At times, however, focus shifts and Williams’s work takes a more representational turn. While the choice of subject matter reflects his love of nature and fishing, the actual artwork - whether paintings or sculptures - reveals the enthusiasm with which he works. A great love of music manifests itself in the lyrical quality of his compositions where his subjects assume ever-shifting forms.
“My paintings of wetland environments preserve a sense of this place through ever shifting, evocative compositions, and the formal exploration of paint.
My fish paintings and sculptures manifest as iconic figures of my imagination, experiences fishing, and my physical capabilities as an artist. I strive to keep my work fresh and original, changing like the light of day, insuring it conveys a sense of soul, intuition, and duty.”
“The desire to be inventive while moving paint around is of utmost importance to me - equally important as the subject.”
“Art making is ritualistic.”
“The nature of my approach does not require that colors be isolated or kept pure from contamination by another. I consider the interaction between colors their primary function adapting constantly to what’s happening on the surface, as colors mix optically, making necessary adjustments to achieve the desired qualities as I go.”
“I constantly and purposefully shift approaches to painting - keeping it alive and challenging.”
“The action of painting is a journey into the subconscious. I don’t believe its possible to really paint well and make new discoveries throughout the process unless you override your mind’s tendency to control and restrain your hands from acting on their own.”
“Perhaps each painting should be thought of as a trial - you are the sole attorney acting as the prosecution and the defense, the judge and the jury. You make some representation (in paint) that has certain implications and then you must analyze, scrutinize and attempt to destroy any weaknesses in that representation of your prior actions. Sit, look and listen to the arguments in your head, for and against the direction taken, and determine how well it works visually.”
“I view my work as a visual collective of the conscious mind, tempered by the unconscious, and the music in my ears.”
“Paintings that are characterized by a single dominant trait or set of traits are linked with other paintings that share the same traits. These works simply categorize as a series. Emerging late 2010 and continuing into the present, a number of my paintings became linked by unpredictable combinations of aggressive marking, textures, and darker or outrageous color palettes. They contain hybrid fish - forms representing no specific known species. They’re uncharted and unusual. These works were among the first to be included in my Congo Series, aptly named after the vast and mighty Central African River, full of immeasurable energy and yet to be discovered life.”
“It is not uncommon for a work to fall into more than one category within my repertoire, in which case it simply requires an impulsive judgement of how and what context I wish for it to be viewed. It is then assigned an appropriate title placing it in the most logical category.”
“Ambiguity has long been one of my favorite qualities. If purpose is not clearly defined an object could be dismissed as confusing and puzzling, however, that which has multiple purposes, meanings, or dimensions seems far more intriguing. Titles such as, Cadmium Symphony or Chromium Medley obviously can be interpreted in several ways. A thought came to mind, innocent and pure, the title was given - only then, in a split second, came the realization that it could be perceived as dark and poisonous.”
“They (fish) represent change and perseverance - quite simply, eternity.”
“My goal has been and remains to make art about the subjects dear to me - subjects that are broad in scope, ambiguous in nature, fragile, vulnerable, and mighty, all at once. Whether it is with pencil and paper, paint and canvas, wood, clay, steel or something else, they will likely relate fish, humanity, and the environment in which we live.”