Alun Williams: 'No Paine No Gain'

22 Sep 2018 – 10 Dec 2018

Event times

Wednesday - Friday 12-6, Saturdays 10-1

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Handel Street Projects

London, United Kingdom


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  • 19,30,43
  • Angel, Highbury and Islington
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Alun Williams is known for use of carefully researched, found abstract paint marks as portraits of historical characters. His new paintings are a celebration of Thomas Paine the British political theorist and philosopher


Continuing our series of exhibitions exploring the status of painting today we are pleased to present the first solo exhibition in London for thirty years of new works by New York and France based, British artist, Alun Williams. 

Williams is known for use of carefully researched, found abstract paint marks as portraitsof historical characters. His new paintings are a celebration of Thomas Paine (Thetford, Lincs, 1737 – New York City, 1809) the British political theorist and philosopher who was a pioneer of democracy and equality, having an enormous influence on both American and French Revolutions. He was also a pioneer of innovation in spreading information – very much a precursor of recent politicians realising the potential of social media. In Paine’s case his famed political texts, such as Common SenseRights of Manand American Crisiswere published as cheap pamphlets in print runs of up to 500,000, a circulation volume previously unheard of and quite enormous in relation to 18thcentury populations.

Taking inspiration from an iconoclast like Francis Picabia, who in 1920 univocally declared a Rorschach – like inkblot to be La Saint Vierge (The Blessed Virgin), Williams banks on the sheer irrationality attached to painterly illusionism, to give history painting a final conceptual turn of the screw.(Christian Viveros-Faune, critic, New York, 2017)

Williams’ methodicway of painting references a variety of painterly traditions, but his works always share a mark or stain in red, blue, yellow or grey, paint marks or accidental splashes or spillages that he finds in particular places. In the case of Thomas Paine, who wrote parts of his book, Rights ofMan, at the Angel Inn Islington, the traces of his symbolic presence remained elusive for longer than most of Williams’ subjects. The artist saw this as normal, paralleling numerous Paine scholars or fanatics who travelled extensively searching for the dispersed remains of the great man. An accidental and evocative paint mark was finally discovered on Paine’s doorstep in Lewes, the British town, where he first began political debate in earnest.

I have always felt enormous potential in the no-man’s-land, which exists between figuration and abstraction. A paint mark found in the street, for example, is at the same time totally abstract and totally figurative! This position creates a lot of ambiguity and leaves considerable space for the spectator’s imagination, so bringing him/her almost involuntarily into the picture’s universe. (Alun Williams, interviewed by Eric Mangion, Director, Villa Arson, National Contemporary Art Center, Nice, 2011)

Since the 1980’s, Alun Williams has exhibited internationally and his work features in many public and private collections. Notable recent exhibitions include Galerie Anne Barrault, Paris; Galerie Raymond Hains, St. Brieuc; Art 101, New York; Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art, Nice; Maeght Foundation, St. Paul de Vence…

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