Home Body – Shannon Williamson
Home Body by Shannon Williamson brings together a collection of works on paper which explore the role of gouache as a medium for portraying the body in distress.
The notion of “home” here is fraught. There is a sense of healing as figures appear absorbed in intimate processes of self-care and recuperation, but there is too a sense of threat, as if they are in danger of disintegrating or dissolving into the visceral matter of pigment and/or bodily matter. Even suggested moments of touch, while dynamic and dramatic, appear ambiguous in their intent.
Williamson bases her imagery on illustrations from out-of-date Australian First Aid and Practical Home-Healing manuals. Her choice of the medium of gouache is used to convey a beguiling sense of fluidity and translucence in relation to the physicality of the body and the visceral nature of skin, bone and bandage. The medium’s ability to be reanimated through the process of rewetting is drawn quite literally into the sense of instability and fragile vulnerability that pervades these paintings. The resulting works are delicate, frail, sensuous in their portrayal of the human form, but also unstable, anxious even in their very ephemerality.
Williamson graduated from the University of Canterbury, School of Fine Arts in 2009 with a Bachelor of Fine Art (Painting major with 1st class honours) and was twice the recipient of the Ethel Susan Jones Fine Arts Travelling Scholarship awarded by the University of Canterbury for excellence in unique composition. She has exhibited in solo and group shows internationally since 2001 and was artist in residence at the SymbioticA Centre for Excellence in Biological Arts in Perth in 2012 and the Fremantle Arts Centre in 2013. Her work frequently draws on bodily themes and concepts, extending the objective navigation of anatomy into a more unstable realm that is playful, visceral and volatile.
“My techniques range from tightly controlled, pre-meditated technical drawings through to performative, highly expressive gestural works which embrace chance mark-making and the raw physicality of my media. The media I use act as metaphors for the body, bodies and bodily processes in their ability to respond, in physically diverse ways, to external variables such as application pressure and friction or the introduction (or deprivation) of water. While their visceral properties provide connotations of the living body, their temporary and often fragile properties also speak of mortality and transience. These are the fabric of my practice, which is driven by a desire to visualise the intimate dynamics within and between bodies with a recurring focus on proximity, synchrony and misalignment between two or more bodies.”