The use of a commercial airbrush has surfaced in Michael Williams’ latest oil paintings, the type of airbrush often seen at various Jersey shore custom t-shirt stands.The immediacy and high tempo of this tool is employed to create stream of consciousness under-paintings on numerous multi-sized canvases.The endless spray of misty pigment is invited to wander across the canvas, churning out faces and spirals, animals and ideograms.These initial offhanded stabs are frequently painted over with an oily glaze.The effect is like peering through a series of experiential scrims, not strictly in conversation with each other, but not non-sequitors or obliterations either.
Williams’ mark making is a mongrelized mix that spans methods as varied as thick impasto, thin watery trickles, mysterious non-brush activity, and meandering ropes of straight out of the tube pigment.There is a loping quality to many of the final marks. Like acrylic yarns intercoursing with a cloud they register a slightly crude lyricism. Often the motif of puzzle pieces is employed, an off kilter reference to the great and grand modernist grid, but with the natural head-scratching malleability of putting together and taking apart that puzzles imply.The paintings are frequently painted wet into wet, resulting in a curiously unnamable color palate. Are the paintings pink, puce, or earth tone? Hard sayin’, not knowin’.
Williams is a cerebral young painter, who is able to make visible his most coded and slippery musings.These paintings are investigations into the thought process as well as the painting process. The earliest marks and splotches of each painting seem to suggest to the artist where the painting will ultimately go, just as a path in the woods suggests a walk. It is his extreme unselfconsciousness that makes his work so bracing and beautiful. We have heard so often about the abstract painter who is able to channel his or her feelings unmediated onto canvas, so often in fact that most have decided it is a faded myth, until we are actually confronted with it, as we are here in “Straightforward as a Noodle.”