10 Questions with Catlin Prize Winner Brigitte Williams
Graduating with distinction from the Slade School of Art in 2006, Brigitte Williams reputation has continued to grow. She won the inaugural Catlin Art Prize in 2007 and her work has been placed in numerous private and public collections. Brigitte Williams seeks to explore the linguistic and structural patterns underlying our unconscious understanding of the world with the ultimate aim of completely erasing her own subjectivity from the work.
1. Hi Brigitte, tell us, why did you decide to become an Artist?
I didn’t become an artist. I have always interpreted life, ideas and methods the way I do today. I simply didn’t know abstract thoughts could become ‘Art’. I still don’t know if I am an artist, or what it really means, I believe we are all artists. After living an ordinary life and raising 3 children I entered further education to search for the means to express methods and notions I had developed over the years. I wanted to translate my subjective and unseen concepts into tangible forms.
2. How did your time at Slade School of Art influence your work?
It changed everything! I found what I thought I would never be able to do…that is to produce visual representations of my ideas. These physical objects would allow a viewer to perceive and understand my thought processes.
3. You won the Catlin Prize in 2007, would you say this had any major repercussions in terms of publicity and visibility for your work?
Of course! I was coming out of the Slade, and although I won the inaugural prize at a time when it wasn’t as prestigious as today, collectors became interested in my work and I started selling! It is fantastic to still find my work somehow associated to the new talents Justin Hammond finds every year. It certainly gives me inspiration and visibility to new audiences.
4. Describe your work in 3 words?
I can’t…I have never counted how many words there are in my work…
5. Tell us the concept behind 'Mind The Gap'?
It is a continuing exploration into maps, codes and words. The map can be read as a system theory diagram of a city’s interrelated elements or, conversely, a complex treasure map enticing the viewer into a labyrinth of associations and reciprocation.The original font, symbols and colour code are maintained in this context to act as recognisable motifs. Every working station within London’s zones has been listed and used to contain the connections that are so familiar to London travellers. To everybody that has ever used the network, these names evoke memories, experiences or possibilities. Stations are placed around the circumference in alphabetical order creating an egalitarian perspective of London. Hillingdon sits next to Holborn, Redbridge beside Regent’s Park. Zones, boroughs and demographic profiles disappear. The city viewed as a whole. Just as Harry Beck first intended, although taken to the extreme, the lines have been straightened and distances between the stations have been evened out. This transforms a map based on electrical circuit diagrams into an image seemingly gleaned from a Particle Collider. Traceable filaments that intersect, overlap, or gravitate in random areas within the containing circle, creating fusions of colour and mass.
6. What does an average day look like for you?
There are no average days. Every day is different. I can be reading, collecting words, collecting concepts, meditating while on a long walk, ironing or cleaning the house, all the while juggling geometry, patterns and words in my head. Sometimes I do absolutely nothing. I can be a bit of a recluse and enjoy the intensity of my inner thoughts and my solitude. I have now a studio in France besides my London studio, which means a lot of traveling and literally getting lost in translation between the two ways of living. My days are never boring and I enjoy the unpredictability of what will or could come next.
7. You mention the 1963 Joseph Albers quote ('If one says 'red' - the name of color - and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.') How does the miscommunication of signifiers and signs come to play in your Art?
Did I say earlier I felt sometimes lost in translation in my life? The same applies between languages, between objective and subjective concepts, between verbal and non verbal expression. I try to find and express that very discrepancy which lies between the sign and the signifier. That very miscommunication lies often in the subtleties of our unique subjectivities. In my art I hope the answer always is in the viewer’s eye. What is red?
8. What’s the weirdest response you’ve had to one of your works?
Somebody mentioned an inaccuracy in the shape of a country in one of my maps.
9. Is your work in any notable collections?
Erasmus University (Netherlands), Land Securities, Penguin books, Catlin, Paul Smith, Eversheds, Clifford Chance, Creative Cities Collection (Olympic Gallery in Beijing) and many private collectors worldwide.
11. How long does it take you to create a work?
As long as my number of years…that is for the thinking part. For the making, I do not count by the clock…. I make so many mistakes. They help me to move the project on, to understand better what I am doing. I make and redo. I start again and again until I see perfection in its form. The collected words or elements are re-organised in order to disrupt their original placing. At this stage, I spend endless hours in front of a computer screen applying the strict rules and systems I have created and established for the particular work. After this point there is no room for mistakes. I had to remake ‘Mind the Gap’ after realising when I got to the letter P, that I had forgotten the station ‘Putney bridge’, one omission and the spacing between each station had to change! … plus all the linking lines … that is when I hate what I do and my obsessive behaviour pattern!
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