The Threshold Festival of Music and Arts takes place 1-3 April 2016 in Liverpool’s Baltic area.
We are featuring just a few of the many visual artists taking part.
Third in the series is Wendy Williams.
Featured Threshold Artists #3
Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith for Art in Liverpool
Wendy Williams has been working much more locally than usual recently, and it’s led to a recurring presence of her name on Art in Liverpool. Today is no exception. Threshold Festival’s 2016 arts offering, Alchemy, takes some of the year’s most exciting local artists and brings them together over a weekend of arts, music and more general cultural mayhem. The wider festival looks like it’s going to be offering wildly varied experiences, but in the case of Alchemy Visual Arts it’s given the artists a very specific challenge, to respond to that enticing word: alchemy.
Wendy Williams should be used to a challenge by now though, as an artist whose only real continuity is in her materials – the everyday, the discarded and the overlooked. She told me recently that it wasn’t uncommon to find notes by her locker in work saying ‘can you use these?’, and continually gathers sticks and pieces of parks while walking her dogs. These material challenges then need translating into subject related challenges, altering her practice to fit collaborators, venues and distances.
But whatever the opposition, it is her methodical approach that conquers it. Whether it’s finding out how she fits in with the artist medley, Soup Collective, or positioning herself in the ambitious Alternator Studios on Birkenhead, Williams makes herself fit. Saying of her own work, that “each experience seems to trigger a new line of thinking,” and her next comment left little to the imagination on what kind of thought process that was.
“Systematically…methodically…” That’s how Williams looks to approach the Alchemy theme anyway. And while there is a certain amount of discretion about what is going to be unveiled this year, and where, it seems that her systematic approach has led her to The Gallery Liverpool.
The installation work, which we’re hoping is going to be as ambitious as it sounds, is shaping up to be a moody, thoughtfully lit collection of houses built from the artists beloved re-purposed materials; including paper, twigs, and whatever else she can lay her hands on. But if you manage to find it and want to give it the time it deserves, that may well be impossible. Not because of any Baltic labyrinths. Not because it’s insignificant. Because the time that has gone into this installation is so hard fought that it may well end up deserving more time than lifetimes tend to give.
Williams has given very literal blood sweat and tears to this project, developed callouses from the sheer amount of cutting and folding, and developed such stringent working methods that her brain may well be close to losing any space for other thought.
So this artist, who’s work I am used to seeing in very small forms, will be presenting something both large in scale and in ambition. This is what the role of Threshold should be, reframing our views of artists who have incredible practices, by removing the limits and constraints that Liverpool’s conventional gallery spaces offer. Nothing new for Williams, but something very new for how this city gets to see her.
See Wendy Williams work at The Gallery Liverpool.