Paul Williams, Confetti Solution, 2011, enamel, oil and acrylic on synthetic leather and canvas, rubber, rope, tape and swivel hooks, dimensions variable. This project was made possible through the Firstdraft Emerging Artist Studio Residency Program and was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.
Image: Kim Walker
Firstdraft Gallery: May 18- June 5, 2011
Walking into Firstdraft Gallery was like waking up the morning after the night before. Confetti is scared throughout the front of the gallery space, a maze of shapes and colours to navigate through. Had I not visited Paul Williams’ studio prior to viewing the work I would have considered Confetti Solution to be careless, however, after speaking with the artist I realise there is method to the madness. Cutting up old paintings, Williams creates a memorial for his past work which he did not deem worth keeping. As I make my way through the sea of colour, dodging upside down helmets suspended from the ceiling, I find myself hesitant to step on the confetti, as if it is some way disrespectful.
It is this hesitancy and sense of doing something wrong, which I think Williams, was hoping to inspire. When discussing his work earlier that week we had dwelled heavily on how the work should be displayed. Notions of movement and segregation were thrown around and even the possibility of a ‘take away’ aspect to the show. We discussed how it would be the reaction of the audience which would prove most interesting, as most would be reluctant to tread directly on something that was deemed an ‘artwork’. With the remnants of Williams’ artistic past scattered throughout the space it is impossible not to leave a mark on the work as it blocks the entrance to the entire gallery. This was also a factor in the artist’s decision of display.
Williams has taken his previous work and remade it as a separate and unique work of art. There is juxtaposition between the ‘death of art’ connotations and the celebratory aspect of confetti. It is as if you are entering a wake of Williams’ artistic career where you are not mourning a loss but celebrating a beginning. By creating circles, stars, cars and streamers from old canvases the artist is giving work which he deemed a ‘failure’ a second chance to impress. So the real question is- does it? The satirical nature of the work is endearing and, like the artist himself, Confetti Solution does not take itself too seriously- it is a celebration after all.
Having spoken with the artist about his work which, when I first saw it, was divided into neat piles in his studio, I was surprised by his chosen method of display. There is a carelessness about the work which in no way reflects the calculated process behind it. However, there is simplicity as well and an effortlessness which embodies Williams as an artist. Behind this simplicity lie hours of manual labour, several pairs of scissors and a thumb which the artist fears he may never regain feeling in again.
Speaking with the artist post- opening night I am disappointed I missed it. In an effort to “keep the experience of ‘throwing the confetti’ alive for the people coming to the show” Williams made the decision to install “the ring of helmets/confetti heads” in an effort to encourage interaction between the viewer and the artwork. As he recalls, at the opening people began to bump into the helmets, swing them deliberately and subsequently began bashing them about with confetti exploding everywhere. “I wanted people to walk on them, trample them and forget they were there, or even start pocketing them- which they did.”
Williams notes that the grey concrete floor became like a canvas, the confetti like paint, bringing the work around full circle and reminding the artist of his painting roots. With such an interactive and energetic opening night it might have been a nice addition to have it filmed and the footage played in the space for the duration of the show. With so much emphasis placed on interaction with the work, as someone not present at the opening it would have been a lovely thing to see and would have presented a definitive link between the confetti and suspended helmets. Nonetheless, Confetti Solution is an exceptional work that is both humorous and nostalgic, celebratory and reverent, with an air of unpredictability- much like the artist himself.