On the cover: Brigette Williams
When did you become an artist?
I came to art late. I used to run a fashion shop in France, then I married an Englishman and moved to the UK, and I’ve been here for 25 years. When our children were young I started taking watercolours classes, but I got so bored with them that I went to see my tutor and said “I can’t do this any more.” She asked me what I wanted to paint, and I said: “I want to paint what I can’t see.” She encouraged me to take a degree in art and everything flowed from there.
What are your artistic principles?
I like that quote from Bridget Riley: “I can’t communicate verbally with you, so what’s the point in trying? But I’ll paint you a message so loud and clear you’ll know exactly how I feel.” I feel the same about explaining my art. But I guess the one defining idea I have is to leave my subjectivity out of my art, to subtract myself from the equation.
When I start out, I find a set of data and an organising principle. So, for example, I wanted to do a piece about emotions, so I took the emotions matrix created by psychologist Professor Robert Plutchik and expanded it out with all the adjectives of emotion in the dictionary. In ‘Everything I Might Need to Know’, I took all the lines of advice from the holy books of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism and organised them according to E8 algebra. And in ‘The Flap of the Butterflies’, I tracked headlines in the Independent over two-and-a-half years, and laid them out over the map of London, colour-coding them for their theme.
What about your mind maps charting the definitions of colour?
The starting point for that piece was Joseph Albers’s statement that if you say the word ‘red’ and 50 people are listening, then there will be 50 different ideas of the colour red in their minds. No one can define colour and this piece, ‘ColourBlindness’, uses the dictionary definitions to show that there is no way in – you can’t capture “blue” or “yellow” in words. It’s the same with my mind map of the word “perception”. You can’t write objectively about perception because you’ll have your own perception about it.
And how about our cover art, ‘Sunlight’?
For ‘Sunlight’, I took all the adjectives of colours I could find and put them in alphabetical order in a circle so there is no hierarchy. Right in the middle you get a single tiny dot of white, created by the combination of all the colours. This is one of my favourite artworks: I also do a black version called ‘Moonlight’.
What will people think when they look back on our era of art?
I think that sometimes modern art can be a bit like pop music – you hear all these catchy tunes from people and then three or four years later you don’t hear anything from them any more. I do feel that there’s not enough focus any more and too much emphasis on trying to be dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. At times in my career I have been criticised because my work was not controversial enough, but I wanted to create things which are beautiful and of substance.
You can see more of Brigitte’s work at www.brigittewilliams.co.uk.
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