Laura Williams studied at Auckland University, graduating with a first-class MA in Sociology 2005. She began exhibiting her paintings in 2013 with a solo show at The Kreisler Gallery, Brunswick, Melbourne. Since then her work has been shown throughout New Zealand. Over the past seven years, Laura has had eight solo shows, nine group shows and undertaken several commissions. Her works have been acquired by the Wallace Arts Trust as well as notable New Zealand and overseas private and corporate collections.
Williams is a self-taught painter who, as Francis McWhannell noted in 2018, “actively leans into the ‘naïve’” to create works which are playful, ebullient and as the artist states, “thoughtfully irreverent”. Covering a lot of ground in her practice, Williams has branched her work into four distinct strands; Still Life, Room Portraits, Subverted Garden of Eden as well as her wildlife works from her recent residency in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Inspired by a plethora of extraordinary artists such as Henri Rousseau, David Hockney and Hieronymus Bosch alongside the likes of William Morris, Pierre Bourdieu and Emily Dickinson, Williams pulls from a variety of creative disciplines. With these historical giants in her mind’s eye, Williams sits within her Auckland based apartment (with her budgie Bev-Bevan) alongside an array of op-shopped figurines, ceramics and trinkets. Employing the objects as immediate visual references, Williams arranges tableaus before her. She then opens her Pinterest account to supplement the composition with embellishments; pattern and print to populate the fabrics in the works – tablecloths, wallpaper and curtains.
Discussing her process, Williams states “Many of my paintings are literally a palimpsest of art once found in the majority of mid-century living rooms. In an act of artistic demur to Walter Benjamin’s essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Art, I utilise mid-century art prints adhered to board, which I flip over and repurpose as my canvas. Subsequently, on the reverse of many of my paintings, faded to various shades of sludgy blue by the antipodean sun, are the mass-produced prints which mainstreamed the works of artists such as Gainsbourg, Rousseau, Picasso, Van Gogh.” Working from background to foreground, like a Victorian stage set, it is then that Williams goes about layering the thick acrylic onto the surface.
In 2018, Williams’ undertook the prestigious ChaNorth artist residency in New York which has informed much of her recent work. Romantic and full of life, Williams’ works capture a distinctive take on her personal and societal memories. With an MA in Sociology it is not surprising the works have a focus on people; whether living or through thoughtfully placed references to long-gone heroes/heroines. In doing so, Williams’ reveals links between people, their ideas, their impact and the era to which they belong.