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Artist Interview - Iain Willams

by Catherine Peters April 01, 2022

Iain Williams

April embraces a new season, sparking more movement with our own bodies as we explore our own surroundings. This month we interview Iain Williams, a Blackpool based Artist who explores the abstract image and mark-making within an expressionistic form, Iain has created his own bold visual language and motifs, referencing urban links and contemporary imagery to create his own style. 

Q: Can you tell us about your Artistic background/education?

Art for me started to come more into focus at secondary school that’s where I felt most comfortable as I wasn’t really academic in other areas. That led to a two year stint at Blackpool School of Art which was my most enjoyable and fulfilling time in education. After I studied art at degree level in Coventry and then moved into a studio at The Custard Factory, Birmingham till 1998. There was a number of years where I had to submit to full time work and out art to one side and then in 2016 after a move back up North it came back in as my main focus. Since then I’ve been working on developing bodies of work and really honing my style and narrative to where it is now.

Q. How has your creative journey evolved over the last 5 years?

 I’ve prioritised creating as a full time activity and delving deeper into where the work is heading and where I want it to progress to.  Scale has been a key element that in increasing the size of the work has really helped give me more freedom and scope to really explore how the images come together and how they appear.  The space on larger works really has galvanised a stronger and more bold sense of mark-making and gradually let me explore more minimal compositions.

Q. Do you work in a studio or from home?

I work from a studio based in Blackpool.  Having that separate work space from home allows me to walk in and out without having to disrupt my work. The current scale of paintings I create has quickly outgrown any home space, if I do have to be home based it’s more for writing and sketch-work.  The studio really allows me to run free with the work and experiment without constriction.

Q. Who are your Art Influencers? Inspirations?

Two artists in particular have really seeped into my mindset and created a strong influence. The first being Howard Hodgkin, his work and paint marks have always pulled me in and transfixed me. Cy Twombly is now a particular passion, his boldness and simplicity of marks I think is breathtaking, his work has had quite a profound impact on me. Newer contemporaries such as Jenny Brosinski and Sami Korkiakoski are creating fantastically bold works, the former I really identify with her strength of minimal marks and composition.  That also is another area of inspiration all round, minimalist design and architecture along with music too.

Q. What helps you to create your work, music? quiet?

Music is a key element to my work which provides a steady background of rhythm and noise that allows me to focus on the work I’m creating.  Titles for my works often originate from song titles/lyrics that fit at that particular time or resonate with present feelings/moments when completing works. Rediscovering electronica from the nineties through to a raft of present day artists such as Rival Consoles, Andy Scott and Daniel Avery gives a rich soundscape for creativity. It’s important to have your own sense of space and inspiration and music really does add to that for me.

Q. Do you keep a sketchbook? How often do you use it and do you travel with it?

Yes, I usually have multiple ones on the go of varying sizes.  I find it helps loosen me up working in a sketchbook and undertaking time to mark make rather than going straight into a painting from scratch. At a later date it also gives me reference points for cherry picking sections and compositions that I can work with and incorporate into larger full scale works.  Some of the sketchbooks I have retained are complete works in themselves that I enjoy picking up and looking through and seeing how they age from that previous moment to the present day. What I may have thought didn’t work then now does.

Q. Where does a piece of work begin for you? Can you describe your process?

It can be from multiple points…either from ongoing sketch work or a transition and development from a previous body of work where I want to take the compositions further forward in a new direction.  Also source material from my own collection is important, I tend to take a lot of photographs from the urban environment when I’m out and about, anything that catch’s my eye and inspires my mark-making or compositions.  The current body of paintings normally involve blanking out large sections of the canvas and then I begin staining and mark making around that space.

Q. What are your most important artists tools?

Apart from my hands, my brushes some of which I’ve had since the early nineties. There’s also a collection of various odds and sods with scrapers, palette knives and tools from DIY environments which allow me to work in many different ways creating varied effects on paper or canvas.

Q What are your favourite materials/technique?

Spray paints and inks figure quite heavily in my work at present, especially the latter with staining.  A key part of my compositional process now as I mentioned earlier is blanking out large sections of canvas so it remains untouched and clean. Once it’s revealed after being worked around it creates this great sense of negative space. I love having that breathing space within the works with just minimal marks on it.

Q. What are you currently working on?

There’s ongoing work on canvas in the studio which I want to continue with as the next step and development as a new body of work.  Also there’s ideas I’m generating to act as additions to an existing exhibition of work to place in amongst their collection and maybe some ideas for urban activity too.  I’m also looking at other shows and exhibitions further afield in the year and for 2023.

Q. What is the best advice you were given early in your creative career?

Be honest and upfront about what you’re doing and who you are, just be yourself.  If you don’t, people will see through you straightaway. Do what you do with honest intentions and be true to yourself, that way you can’t go wrong, your work will be borne of genuine & correct intention and shine.

 Q. Where can we see more of your work online or in person?

At present I have two lots of work in separate exhibitions. The first is ‘/di’stil’ an exhibition in partnership with the Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington, in collaboration with Atlantic Contemporary Art and Creative Lancashire, of new and existing works.  The former pieces being influenced by the Haworth’s Tiffany collection and elements from Accrington’s urban identity.  The show is open now and runs till May 22nd.

There’s also a workshop linked to the exhibition which I’ll be leading on the 17th April and also a talk on the 7th April in conjunction with Creative Lancashire as part of their ‘Conversations in Creativity’ which will feature an interview by the music journalist John Robb about the exhibition and my work. There’s a second show at UNITOM, Stevenson Square, Manchester which is a specially curated selection in collaboration with Universal Tomorrow of twelve paintings in the newly opened space. That is ongoing, there is also a limited first edition zine, exclusive to UNTIOM currently available to purchase which documents that collection of paintings and its creation over 18 months. 


Website:          www.iainhwilliams.com

Instagram:       @iain_h_williams

Twitter:            @IainHWilliams





Catherine Peters
Catherine Peters

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