Evelyn Williams, and another case of the public denied

In the last issue I considered the case of a single-minded good artist,  David Mulholland from

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Middlesbrough, whose memory, in the absence of any official recognition or support, has to google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; be kindled for posterity’s sake by friends and family. By The Jackdaw’s usual standard of eliciting no comment whatsoever, this
caused a considerable mailbag from many mentioning other artists who deserved better than the obscurity
and indifference they receive. Owing to the recent death of a special artist, google_ad_height = 90; there is cause for reiterating
this line of criticism of an art establishment hopelessly out of touch with anything but ‘The Contemporary’, such as they choose to see src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> it.

Grief felt

at the death of a memorable artist is mitigated always by the fact that their work – if it is properly accomplished and not merely the species that is
famous for fifteen minutes – will live /* xin-1 */ forever. Giotto didn’t need an ‘artist’s statement’ or

incomprehensible catalogue introductions for his work to last, because his paintings speak for themselves in a universal language understood across google_ad_width = 970; the centuries. His work will continue to communicate clearly its observations of character and stories just as long as human beings are prepared to see,  feel and respond. This is the case also with the art of Evelyn Williams who died aged 83 on November 14th. Her work will endure in


spite of the neglect //--> she received from officialdom during a long and productive career. In the same Tate Collection which stores 274 works by
Andy Warhol no space can be found for a single piece by Evelyn Williams, who

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is a far more interesting artist if not so much of a business-minded celebrity phenomenon whose market is carefully rigged. Even in the last two years alone, when 516 works were acquired by the Tate, there was no

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room for a single one by this important woman artist. There are even ten works in our national collection by American minimalist Robert Ryman, all
of them white and doubtless extremely challenging to those of a devoutly all-whiteist fanaticism; but nothing by Evelyn Williams. Here is further evidence that at the nucleus of State Art breeds a deeply entrenched prejudice against anything


but pseudo-intellectual nonsense.

It is an appalling truth that the Tate has ceased to be a collection of British art preserving the

very best of what is being done. Instead, it has been stealthily subverted under Serota to become a private collecting fief promoting a narrow orthodoxy related to a handful of dealers and auctioneers. Why is it that so much about today’s Tate stinks? Evelyn Williams is in a long line of single-minded British artists who refuse to run along the pre-ordained tramlines of conceptualism and modernism. She was a thoughtful, modest, intelligent and vulnerable person alive in a world – as she perceived and experienced it – of imminent dangers. Her paintings, sculptures
and reliefs are about the fear and

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anxiety, the affections and frictions, of what it is to have lived the life of an anxious woman google_ad_height = 90; and mother. Hers
is first and last a woman’s art, an uncompromising take on post-war relationships, intimacy, cares, depression, failure and even alienation. Her subjects take you inside the realm of senses and feelings, probing the unspoken secrecies behind
the masks of propriety


we all wear. In

for two google_ad_height = 90; months

already and will remain in place for another
year. What is happening when a fifty-year-old

artist, already over-exhibited at a time when so many unexposed artists can’t get their work shown, is having a thirteen-month long exhibition? What is the reason for such indoctrination? Too often
the Artists’ Rooms represent those who are already widely exhibited and who are bastions of the art market.

Artists Rooms are

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blunt instrument whereby approved taste is circulated


(inflicted) from the centre. They constitute cheap exhibitions for Arts Council venues up and down the country, whose curators don’t have to originate their own programme. The laziness and

​ ready compliance of these jobsworths is a /* xin2 */ godsend to State Art.  They can merely exhibit the same few approved brand names for ever. And make no mistake their career will depend upon them favouring these “right” kinds of artists for no individual prospers in State Art by demonstrating initiative or investigating the unorthodox.

Visit the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield and you will discover the

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other reason, besides the dreaded Artists’ Rooms,
why thought and broad knowledge among curators is unnecessary. There is a new species of art collectors who caught the disease of wholesale, apparently random acquisition from Saatchi. These people fuel the market for State Art which they buy
in quite staggering quantities. Their houses, full of wince-inducing tat bought for eye-watering sums, feature frequently in glossy magazines. Usually

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they are rewarded for their commitment to the State Art cause with the accolade of a position on a Tate committee, of which there are now dozens. At Serota’s Tate money not knowledge is the essential qualification for co-option.

One such überbuyer – who has not yet been brought on to any Tate committee – is one David Roberts, a property developer, who has accumulated so

much clutter he’s src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> opened his own ‘space’ and has begun feeding pieces to regional galleries, Wakefield being the first google_ad_width = 970; venue. Works selected are linked as follows: “This exhibition examines ways in which modern and contemporary artists represent the human


in various media to explore psychological and emotional life.” What a perfect criterion that is for the inclusion of a major work by Evelyn Williams. Unfortunately, the trouble is that among Roberts’s 3,000 plus works there is nothing by Williams. But have a guess whose work he does own and whose efforts are on show in Wakefield: enter Warhol and Hirst.

David Lee

The Jackdaw January-February 2013