Margaux Williamson: Interiors
Margaux Williamson, Fire, 2021, oil on canvas. Collection of Christine and Andrew W. Dunn.

Margaux Williamson: Interiors

Esker Foundation, Calgary, AB - To Apr 30

by Michael Turner

Margaux Williamson is a Toronto-based artist who works in a variety of media, though is best known for her large oil paintings. Like the earlier work of Canadian contemporaries Damian Moppett and Etienne Zak, she is partial to interior spaces, but with an emphasis on uncanny distributions of light, seemingly incongru- ous relationships between objects and contexts, and the Symbolist’s penchant for the oneiric. Williamson’s worlds recall the artistic marks and gestures Joris-Karl Huysman’s retreating dandy attempted in the novel À rebours (1884), if only he had her patience.

Interiors was organized and circulated by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. In a 2021 online discussion between Williamson, McMichael director Sarah Milroy and exhibition curator Jessica Bradley, the latter quotes Williamson: “I need words. Especially other people’s words.” What emerges is a fruitful discussion on the artist as reader and writer, someone wary of words but inspired by them, whose community is largely made up of writers. Evidence of this can be seen in works like Desk (2020) and in two display tables devoted to Williamson’s notes, in addition to catalogue contributions by novelists Sheila Heti and Ben Lerner.

Though at first glance Williamson is a figurative painter, her earliest work displays an interest in the convergence of representational and abstract styles. In Painting to Moby Dick (2006), a young figure sits at the end of a bed reading a book. While the walls are covered with paintings of trees, the carpeted floor is awash in an abstraction of blues and whites, what soon enough emerges as surf. In Weeds (2006), another figure stares out a window at an uncertain exterior. Or is it a painting this figure is staring at? Yet another instance of abstraction? Even better, the linguistic transition of out into at.

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