Simon Williams British, b. 1961


'A preoccupation with metamorphic abstracted marks and their inherent chance alignments is a constant theme in my work. A childhood fascination with cartoon annuals plays out in my choice of colours and stark outlines. This cartoon fuelled aesthetic combined with a love for urban graffiti helps shape the decision process responding intuitively to form and space. I work on numerous pieces at once to give room for an adventurous and unpredictable approach in an attempt to make something that is eloquent. Often in the work there is a nucleus of activity, an unrest that gives shape to a space neither land locked or sky bound. It's a dialogue with paint to ultimately refine my visual and conceptual language.


'I pursue the idea that a painting can reflect back some of the time we inhabit, a time where we have access to a plethora of imagery via smart phones and tablets. So, qualities of space and layering of colours are important in the work to attempt to reflect back to the viewer this new visual language.


'Part of this process is to make and modify my own pallete knives and other painting tools, to push paint creating vivid spatial surfaces that mimic graphic imagery but also contest the conventions and recognizable signature of the paintbrush. This helps to challenge the perception of the viewer to engage their everyday associations and knowledge of image language and ways of seeing and interpreting the visual stimuli.' 


Simon Williams trained originally in Fine Art painting at Loughborough College of Art and Nottingham University.


A highly inventive artist Williams has maintained a parallel working life as an artist and designer in the film industry. He has worked  with companies from Spitting Image to Jim Henson's Creature Shop and has created Animatronic creatures and effects on many high profile films, from Harry Potter to Star Wars.


Williams has exhibited widely, in 2016 curated an exhibition 'After Illusion' which brought together six prominent Abstract painters of the south west. In the same year he was included in the prestigious John Moores painting prize held at the 'Walker Art Gallery' Liverpool. His most recent solo show 'Ultra Space' was exhibited in Bristol 2018 and in the same year in London called 'New Vocabulary' at the Serena Morton Gallery.


Williams relocated from London in 2004 to live and work in Cornwall and for the last few years has worked from the historic Porthmeor studios in St Ives. These studios have been used by many famous artists such as Patrick Heron, Ben Nicholson, Francis Bacon, Terry Frost, Roger Hilton and Wilhelmina Barns Graham.


Originally from Edinburgh, Simon studied BA Hons Fine Art Painting at Loughborough College of Art and Design (1984–87), and MA Painting at Nottingham Art College (1989–90). 


Simon Williams' work feeds upon the plethora of visual materials accessible in the digital age. He draws inspiration from many sources most notably childhood comic books, propaganda posters, graffiti works and advertising. Strong graphic imagery with highly delineated edges and vivid use of colour play a key role in his work. Cartoons, graffiti, advertising and the aesthetic they provide, although not usually regarded as high art, form the visual landscape of his subconscious. He is naturally drawn to visual material such as B movie film posters, propaganda posters and the cherished cartoon annuals of his youth. These art forms could be characterised by well-defined edges, but for Williams to emulate that would require a degree of planning and execution at odds with his desire for spontaneity and playfulness.


Williams' paintings combine lots of gestural mark making and in this layering process he is looking for structures embodied with a dynamic energy. Experimentation with materials for their inherent graphic quality, such as acrylic ink and oil alkyd with graffiti markers and even house paint, is at the heart of his practice.


"I find this daily dialogue exploring the possibilities of paint and continual gaining of knowledge and muscle memory, helps to channel my ideas for subsequent work."


The surface quality he works on has become more important as he often uses inks that are super saturated and staining ; they respond best to a smooth surface. "I choose fine grained canvas or polyester, I prime and seal the paper then sand it back and lately have been drawn to synthetic paper which enables paint to be removed leaving a trace of a mark which has an almost print like quality. I often rotate between large works on canvas and smaller works on paper. The choice can be governed by a number of factors, I find larger works require a lot more thought, I like to live with a large painting for a while before deciding where to go next. Whereas smaller works on paper allow many pieces to be created, freeing up a more experimental, non-precious approach. This process certainly seems to help inform ideas for larger works in terms of colour and form."


Williams' background as an Animatronic Designer in the film industry influences his work with painting. He has created Animatronic creatures and effects on many high-profile films such as Harry Potter, Prometheus and Star Wars. "Making an Animatronic creature requires a multitude of skills in material manipulation. At times they appear as complicated, spatial puzzles with linkages, wires and cables all jostling for position. I enjoy this spatial complexity and for me there is structure, order and also a degree of chaos. This certainly plays out in my painting. Working in film I've been fortunate to travel the world on commercial shoots, experiencing different cities and the richness of visual material.


"I love to see advertising in a language I cannot decipher, so the focus is composition and colour, and this definitely feeds my subconscious and reveals itself in my work"


Williams works from the iconic Porthmeor Studios in Cornwall, best known for the incredible number of internationally significant artists who have been based there including Julius Olsson, Stanhope Forbes, Frances Hodgkins, Ben Nicholson, Patrick Heron, Francis Bacon, Terry Frost, Roger Hilton, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and John Wells. The studios are picture perfect with many facing the view of the beach and the ever-changing light of the Atlantic. “Porthmeor studios is an inspirational place to work and I feel fortunate to be part of its history. So many artists I admire have worked here and striven to push forward our understanding of what painting could be.”


One of Williams' paintings ‘Genie’ is currently long listed for the John Moores painting Prize 2021, perhaps the toughest contemporary painting prize and most prestigious in the UK.