Tobias Pils and Michael Williams at Le Consortium, Dijon
It seems that Pils’ paintings are created out of a state of concentration upon what is happening on the canvas, and at the same time out of a kind of absentmindedness. Wakefulness and dreaming complement each other. It is a lucid dreaming, in which focusing on the external paradoxically also opens a door to the reality of interior images, now directly linked to the movement of brush and paint. The planes, loops, spirals, and irregular lines move formally in any number of directions, just like the color splotches and streaks. They are all traces of this dual reality, rooted in the simultaneous observation of the inner and the outer. The diffused space that is created by the confrontation of light and dark elements is also grounded in this impulse. It is a reality in its own right that appears on the canvas. All that is visible-the color, lines, and forms-enter into a relationship, and yet they are not fused together into a coherent narrative in the sense of external events. All terminology is deflected here.
Unstable substantiality is the underlying condition of Williams’ work. It exhibits a state of constant flux. Cartoon inhabitants are constantly being submerged beneath formal pointerly arrangements. But no sooner do you perceive the paintings’ complexity, the intangible layers of color and gesture, than a leering mouth intrudes, or a bulbous nose, and the works’ painterly authority is savagely undercut. “ln making the paintings l generally use the subject as a starting point and something to work against,” says Williams. “lf there is goofiness it’s always there doing the work of doubt.”
The effect of this doubt is that Willioms’ paintings are both visually and emotionally multi-stable. Patterns appear that are too ambiguous for the human visual system to recognize with one unique interpretation. At the some time the emotional resonance of these paintings fluctuates between the comic grotesque and the artistically profound. They are reminiscent of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophical cogitations about the duck-rabbit drawing that can be seen as either a duck or a rabbit. Is it a duck? A rabbit? Both? Or is it just one continuous line formally arranged? Williams’ work offers a similar ambiguity-is it funny or serious? Fleeting or profound? Representational or abstract? A mystery hangs over the work, even a melancholy, for form has been cut adrift and our vision cannot anchor it down.
at Le Consortium, Dijon
until 7 January 2018