Deborah Williams: The Visible Invisible

Deborah Williams: The Visible Invisible

In the work of Deborah Williams, the dog sees as much as it is seen.

6 April, 2023
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A

From top:

Deborah Williams:

Almost human? Exactly dog, 2014, etching engraving, aquatint, and roulette intaglio, edition of 20

The visible, invisible, 2022, aquatint intaglio, 57.5 x 37 cm, edition of 15*

Other self, 2022, aquatint intaglio, 57 x 43.5cm, edition of 15*

Parallel self, 2021, aquatint intaglio, 14.5 x 19.5 cm, edition of 20

Stray shadow, 2022, aquatint intaglio, 37 x 29.5 cm, edition of 15*

I choose you, 2018, etching, engraving, roulette, drypoint and spit bite intaglio, 28 x 59 cm, edition of 20

*Image documentation Janelle Low

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for this exhibition project?

DW: The foundation idea of my work is to depict the dog as a subject not an object. In doing so, I work to eliminate the stigma of sentimentality. My images depict the dog outside of the boundaries of the dominant/submissive association between owner and pet. Integral to the work is the treatment of the pictorial space within the image. The image inhabits a space devoid of distraction. Challenging relationships otherwise treated as ordinary and submissive, the dog is depicted as both emblematic and sculptural.

Q: How did the artwork selection take place?

DW: The majority of the work selected for this exhibition consists of images created in 2021 and 2022. These works were created using two intaglio plates etched solely with aquatint. They explore the reflected image of the dog in the umbra shadow and, in some, created the umbra and the penumbra shadows.

Some earlier work has been included so that the viewer can experience the shifts in my depiction of the canine over time. These shifts, subtle or obvious, provide a reflection on my own creative journey and the development of subject matter that has been of interest to me over time.

Q: How does the exhibition manifest – what do visitors experience?

DW: Queenscliff Gallery has a rich history having once been the Wesleyan church but also a second-hand bookshop. Now converted to a light filled art gallery, with a soaring cathedral ceiling, it has a wonderful sense of space. In this wonderful space, I hope viewers can engage closely with the works to discover the subtle highlights that create a mutual gaze with another being. Initially the work looks like a silhouette. Yet a close engagement creates an experience. Although these works may be viewed in relation to each other, Each image depicts nuances and shifts. Each animal is also an individual.

Q: What are some of the key works and what subject matter do they deal with?

DW: There are no specific key works in the exhibition. I see this work as both individual and united. However, the work that stands out for me personally is  Almost human, Exactly dog. This image demands a reciprocal gaze. The dog sees as much as being seen. The inclination to humanise the dog by assuming its emotion is challenged. The question is “What is it like to be a dog?”  We might imagine, we will never quite know. My works ask the viewer to try.

Q: What is it about the printmaking experience that you most appreciate?

DW:  I most appreciate the complexity of the printmaking experience.  The printmaking experience is mediative and physical in the making of each matrix. The complex process in the making of the print allows time for reflection. The ability to proof the matrix as the image evolves becomes a record of my creative thinking and the choices I make. It also allows me to critique the work and assess outcomes as I create. Inevitably, to a degree, what comes off the press is a revelation. I cannot guarantee what the image will look like. That element of surprise can bring elation or present challenges but, more importantly, it encourages exploration and experimentation.

Importantly, the ability of printmaking to create multiples allows for a wider audience and a broader dissemination. Printmaking aligns with my philosophy in its egalitarian nature.

Deborah Williams, The Visible Invisible, is at Queenscliff Gallery, 81 Hesse Street, Queenscliff, 13 April-7 May  10am-4pm (closed Tuesdays)

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