Press

COMMENTARY

The artist has captured the Ireland of the people with agrarian roots stretching back through centuries. And, somehow, he has created a series of paintings from this subject matter that is both beautiful and completely modern.
– Gwyn McAllister, Martha’s Vineyard Times, July 2015

One felt surrounded by looming giants of every color and description, with skies that were more vivid than and unlike any sky a mere mortal might experience. Fighting with the sky for attention was the equally mesmerizing water. It was glorious.
– Ruth Kirchmeier, printmaker, October 2013

Rez Williams produces large paintings of vibrantly colored fishing boats, paintings that are as mercurial and moody as the ocean the boats work. Some depict the hulking vessels at rest, others show them steaming toward or alongside the viewer, and yet others show them in the distance, appearing vulnerable between a dynamic sea and sky. The perspective begins down along the waterline, so the vessels loom, and Rez extends the color palette well beyond the reality of the boats and their environment. 
– Jim Miller, Martha's Vineyard Magazine, July 2011 

He paints out of West Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard, but he’s about as far from one of those sticky-sweet chroniclers of island life and times as one can get. His scenes of the Vineyard smash into your eyes like crescendos. The spaces warp and move. The colors clash and rebound. You gaze at something like “Gay Head Light” for a few seconds and you get out of breath. Williams is light-years beyond the Vineyard, yet no one has distilled it better.
– Thomas Hoving, late director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,New York City, Cigar Aficionado magazine, Summer 1999

Williams contrasts dock life with life at sea in the paintings. By stressing nature’s scale over man’s intrusion within the waterscape, the paintings impress upon the viewer how much nature dominates the life of a fishing vessel…From the angles stressed by his skillful manipulations of the picture plane, scale is emphasized, while the character of the trawlers is revealed through the physical condition and tension between the stern and bow construction, as well as the use of vibrant paint color.
– Mark H.C. Bessire, director, Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art

As viewers, we are provided dramatic access to the life of such boats and an almost dizzying perspective of swelling waters. Combining his painterly styles and interest in the human presence and impact on the landscape, this series confirms Williams’s independent spirit and constant need to challenge himself and the viewer.
– Mark H.C. Bessire, director, Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art

His clean lines and renderings are integrated into heroic shapes expressed in bold colors. His working boats are depicted close up, solid and heavy and floating on shades of blue. His images, all bulk and dignity, shimmer with energy. One can feel the steel of the hull, sense the power of its movement. His skies, like his water, often come in unexpected hues, off-center pinks, or invented shades of green in designs that fit together like an elegant puzzle.
– CK Wolfson, Cape Cod Life magazine, 2006 

The seas on which the ships loom, hulking and solid, are blood red, sometimes blue-black, or mutations of orange in jagged interlocking shapes that form an alliance with inventions of sky. It is a concert of energies expressed in form and color – large dramatic canvases that merge the representational and the abstract in a manner so crisp and bold you can almost hear the spark and crackle.
– CK Wolfson, Vineyard Gazette, 2004

Each of the pieces is marked by the artist’s signature abstract oil strokes – extreme, slashing twists of color and style that pay little attention to the conventional boundaries of reality…they warp everyday sensibilities, dislodge emotions and challenge.
– Jason Gay, Vineyard Gazette, 1995

“Portraits of the Working Ships of New Bedford” paints the city’s waterfront as a vibrant, energized location. It is a perfect exhibition for visitors to the “Whaling City” to connect today’s waterfront activity to that of the whaling days, so well depicted at the Whaling Museum. Rez Williams has “written” a love story to the fishermen of this harbor through these paintings and his explanation of them.
– Mary Schubert, New Bedford Standard-Times, 2001
 

GALLERY STATEMENT

In Views From Another Island, Williams returns to landscape painting with sixteen oil-on-canvas works. The subject is the rugged shoreline and coastal forest of Monhegan Island, Maine. This follows a series of Irish paintings of coastal and rural Mayo during his fellowship at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in 2014, which the artist says was pivotal in kindling a renewed interest in landscape. 

Williams challenged himself with how to deal with what initially presented itself as ‘a chaotic jumble of dead and living understory, distant glimpses of ocean, and towering deciduous canopy where vegetative undergrowth comes slam bam up to the edge of the sea with no mediating interval.’

As the series developed, the descriptive reference of place fell away and transitioned into more self-referential statements. The artist brings magnificence to this primal scenery by arranging the material into abstract elements, simplified by a fairly limited palette. His fondness for northern European colors – such as Prussian blue, green and indigo, combined with bismuth yellow, Venetian red and Mars red – is evident. He conveys the limpid sense of northern sky, which has a milky quality due to its distance offshore, with titanium white.

Williams is well known for painting the brightly colored, steel-hulled fishing vessels of New Bedford, where he has for years explored the abstract elements of a local industrial subject. ‘The elements of sky and water in these paintings were structured to work with the dominant form of the vessels, and so took on both a subordinate and abstract function’ he says. ‘In the Irish landscapes, this hierarchy and crutch were gone. There was no tyranny of the image; the composition was now democratic, and this has become almost socialistic in the Monhegan paintings.’
– Tanya Augoustinos, A Gallery, Martha’s Vineyard, July 2017