Inviting inquiry

Every year I look forward to seeing new work of Matthew Williams. In fact, I purchased Cognisant in 2016 and enjoy its presence in my garden.

There is some debate as to how a title can influence one’s viewing of an artwork and this is true for the work of Matthew Williams. The title cannot be considered separately, it invites the viewer into the artist’s discourse. ‘Cognisant’ means to have knowledge or be aware of something. This work seems a classic modernist shape reminiscent of works by Barbara Hepworth. The simple oval forged in bronze neatly balanced on a concrete plinth feels familiar. We are cognisant of its classic form and our memory works to reinforce that; such a clever work. The title made me look at the work in a fresh way.

Another work titled Conundrum led me to ask Williams if he is interested in mathematical puzzles. This kinetic piece; a large cube with circles cut out of each facet, catches the viewer’s attention and the title makes us question what exactly the conundrum or puzzle is. How do these shapes revolve around one another? How does it balance and spin? Williams says he has worked with architects and designers in the past and as a result has an understanding of the impact of mathematics on design and building. These principles carry over into his sculpture and are manipulated to create something unique.

Williams works in wood, metal and stone. He does not favour one medium over another but likes to allow the material and process to have its own life. However, his work portrays a clear intention. The forms are graceful and balanced; they are not that of a wild expressionist. He works within the constraints of the material and within his own personal design framework. The result is well executed and aesthetically pleasing pieces you know will withstand the rigours of life either inside or in the garden. From working with wood in his father’s workshop, to the architectural design studio of Zaha Hadid in London, making work for sheiks and fantasy hotels in Dubai, to his studio and foundry here in Christchurch, Williams brings a wealth of skill and ability to his work.

On arriving in New Zealand he learnt the practice of investment foundry and now runs a foundry in Phillipstown, Christchurch, where he creates not only his own work but also that of other artists, such as Anneke Bester, who creates beautifully balanced figures with long limbs entrance that us as they pivot on Williams’s concrete pedestals.

The form, material and title work together in an intellectual way. Williams forces us to consider what he is trying to say or prove. We are invited to spin the work, push it, come close, stand far away even go away and look up the dictionary. It is this interactive appeal that attracts me to his work and makes me look forward to seeing what he might come up with next.

Williams’ work is held in collections throughout New Zealand and indeed the world. He lives and works in Christchurch and exhibits annually at Art in a Garden, Flaxmere, Hawarden.