At first sight, there can be seen an overall dark, saturated harmony with hieratical characters standing back against sleepy settings. They are large, because most of them exceed their format. Their flesh is impalpable; they are statue-like characters, with fixed poses. Laid out like silent actors on a theatre set, waiting for the director to ask them to play. As if they were shifting from one picture to another, changing costumes, positions and places. They seem to be subservient to the painter’s decisions. Behind them, perspective-free landscapes line up. A dark forest, a dark sea, a dark sky, an ill-lit interior. The characters and places are parts of the construction of this painting. They are juxtaposed. And do not communicate. Seemingly unaffected by what surrounds them. Undetermined by any markers of time.
There is Sassafras, a town to the north of Melbourne, where cliffs stand alongside verdant vegetation, and where Justin Williams spent some of his childhood. A town at the antipodes of the stereotypical visions of Australia, being damp, enclosed and invaded by arborescent ivy.
There was also a childhood split between his comrades’ virile suggestions
and an attraction towards art, an Egyptian heritage which he could have done without, so as not to seem too different, and emblematic characters, escaping from standard lifestyles, which are less fascinating than they are scary, marking us for all our lives and emerging from each painting.
Finally, there is an attempt at destroying what has just been done: after painting, and as though no one needed to see another oil painting, Justin Williams sets about erasing and scraping away the layers. This is for him a radical attempt to test his painting’s validity. What remains on the canvas becomes full of meaning and harmony. It is thanks to this erasure that the previously extremely slight connections between the various parts of the picture come to light.
Justin Williams places in a subtle, personal, pictorial balance what he has retained from time, from memory and space.