Didier William’s mixed media paintings are at once highly calibrated and consciously oblique. His coy yet complex narratives unfurl to offer multiple histories, those fixed and fluid, rigid and supple, diasporic and rooted. In one work, The Death of Marat becomes a stage onto which Jacques-Louis David’s propagan- dized martyr is reconstituted as a patterned shape- shifter. French Colonial aesthetics are appropriated and redirected, a Girondin knife turned into a Haitian Machete. Within this dual-revolutionary struggle, William’s figures resist our impulse to name, label, or gender them and as a result forcefully maintain their autonomy. The paintings themselves reflect this resistance to classification; they merge the processes of collage and printmaking with more traditional paint media.
The synthetic ploy of the stage is explored as both a theatrical principal as well as a pictorial motif, yet reductive readings are frustrated by actors that continually defer a set role or location. These characters appear to dislocate themselves at will from their otherwise rational relationship to the ground. In a small portrait by William, eyes proliferate to become skin - both camouflaging the form and reflecting our gaze. The body is fragmented by pattern, and we succumb to its ornamentation as the subject sinks deeper into the space beyond itself, flickering between presence and absence. The eyes of many sitters meet the eyes of many viewers, with kaleidoscopic reflections breaking continuity, as if to intentionally dismantle the possibility that we might objectify the subject.