Introduction Essay – by Peter Haynes

The High-Fired Series

The High-Fired Series is Williams’ most ambitious work to date. Several extended periods as artist-in-residence at Jingdezhen in China meant prolonged separation from her family. It also allowed the opportunity for her to fully immerse herself into the possibilities of her practice and how she could extend herself technically, imaginatively and aesthetically. The resultant works speak of the power of transformation and the ability of the artist to create not only beautiful objects, but objects which give us, as viewers, insights into the human condition.

Not being with those one loves offers opportunities for contemplation and meditation about these people. For, Williams the acceptance of her son into the Australian Navy put into prominence her husband’s substantial career in that same service, as well as that of his forebears in both WW1 and WW11. Williams wished to simultaneously acknowledge the respect she has for her husband’s and his family’s contributions to the well-being of our world, but also to acknowledge her own feelings as a mother and the anxieties she holds for her son in the Military.

How to find the means to express the above through her art? How, if the means are found, to produce work that speaks of the artist’s emotional and thematic needs, and also reconciles those within an object whose aesthetic resolution is the primary concern?

Any meaning that is held within an art object is invested into that object by its maker. That meaning is made manifest by physical form and surface markings, the tools of the artist’s aesthetic intelligence. At Jingdezhen, Williams found both of these and in the doing expressed the affirmative capabilities inherent in the making of the object.

The artillery shell or missile is a potent and implicitly aggressive form, conceptually and aesthetically. Conversely its use as a weapon of destruction is a means of obtaining peace. This innate dichotomy, given articulation in an aesthetic object, asserts the power of the art to act as a medium for the transference of meaning.
The art object, created through a range of processes of malleability, speaks of permanence and further underscores the destruction/creation potential innate in the machinery of war.

The High-fired series is concerned with contradictions and dichotomies. Williams subverts the menace of the artillery shell with beautifully executed decoration redolent of her intimate knowledge of Chinese porcelain.
The fragility and subtlety of her decorative painting, delicate traceries and other devices ostensibly subvert the power of the form on which they sit. What they do positively assert is the coexistence of a range of interpretive possibilities. There is no single correct interpretation. Viewers can do that for themselves.

Peter Haynes

Director, Canberra Museum & Galleries – 2006, ACT, Australia                                                Back to Reviews