Monday, 18 January 2010

Aubrey Williams: Atlantic Fire @ Walker Art Gallery

Does great art need to defy or define the period it was created in?

When mooching in the Walker Gallery, it's always hard not to stop and gaze at the Turner located just by the glass doors to the Special Exhibitions . A shimmering, gleaming seascape, it is both a magical abstraction and a perfect evocation of an effect of heat, light and water.

Turner is basically the definition of great art, so it's both tempting and slightly cruel to compare anyone to him. However, I've found it difficult not to dwell on this comparison when visiting the recently opened Aubrey Williams: Atlantic Fire.


Aubrey Williams, Hymn to the Sun IV, photographs from National Museums Liverpool flickr page.

Aubrey Williams' paintings are both very beautiful... and somewhat kitsch. What stops them being sublime is an unfortunate combination of muddy and electric colours which lends them a certain 80s air. I know this is an inherently ridiculous criticism, but it bothers me. Where I want his miasmic coral like colours and forms to shimmer and billow, there is an rubbery quality somehow reminiscent of marbled paper.

But can I really criticise paintings made in the 80s for looking like products of their time? I feel uncertain on this point. At the end of the day, not everyone can be Turner.

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