About Ronald Williams:
Ronald Williams is a digital artist, born, raised and working in Barbados. His digital collages; created through the manipulation of photographs, print and online media as well as computer generated images, investigate race, class and culture; particularly representations of ‘blackness’.
Since earning his BFA in Fine Arts from The Barbados Community College, Williams has participated in various local, regional and international group exhibitions.
A new old space. That’s how this familiar environment feels. I’m used to the wind chimes, the mahogany pods licking shots on the roof intermittently and the moo-mooing along with the rest of nature, but something‘s different in this country atmosphere. It’s not a sense of purpose, as I’ve always felt that here, nor would I call it pressure; but maybe it’s an accountability/responsibility to get cracking and produce as much as possible in these four weeks. This is perhaps/most definitely driven by the fact that I’ve got a certain goal by the end of the year. More on that later.
My initial plan was to gather as much potential reading material from the Colleen Lewis Reading Room and start doing some research in this space that I’m sharing with the quiet (as far as I can tell) and quite nice international resident artist Daisy Diamond. Given her focus on Judaism in Barbados and my ideas of decadence, materialism, mortality and their relation to religion/spirituality, I think there are interesting things to come.
I must confess to veering from my plan, as Sonia Farmer’s extremely dope work and setup kept calling for my attention. As a result, I put more of my energy into working on a piece I’d laid the foundation for just before the residency started. My time since has been split unevenly between producing and research.
Then Friday came, and with it Amanda Haynes who was setting up for Fresh Milk’s reading room open day. And the critical conversations started, with it the jokes came too, and it was a throwback…no, a Flashback Friday if you will. An old face in an old space where new things are happening.
Since week 1 didn’t go exactly as planned, week 2 was spent playing catch up on the research I wanted to do the prior week. In my mind that leaves me square with where I wanted to be at this point when the residency started. In reality, I’m probably quite a ways off the mark, but I won’t realise that until later when I can’t do anything about it. No sweat, right?
The highlight of the week was definitely my field trips to the St. James and St. George Parish churches. I intended to do St. John’s as well but time didn’t permit. Maybe I’ll do that this weekend. Those spaces felt like an alternate reality; the contrast from the draining heat outside to the refreshing chill inside, the various sounds of life outside to the deafening silence of reverence.
There’s something to be said, for me at least, about the energy in the Parish churches when you’re completely alone. There was a pressure I can’t quite describe; I felt small, like who I am was insignificant in the light of those grandiose stained glass renderings. Maybe I am.
I understand the effect those structures are meant to have—and boy do they work—but it’s my knowledge of this that makes it hard for me to ignore the fact that the churches were built in the 1600s, that in their pomp and circumstance are enduring symbols of colonialism and imperialism.
The architecture, which carries specific elements which have endured through every great period of history was also very interesting to me. That led me to do some research on sacred geometry and the symbolism of shapes.
As it is, I believe I’ve got enough pieces to play with so it’s time to make this work. I think this week will be good.
Week 3 Monday saw me start what I fully intended to be a productive week in solitude. Both Katherine and Daisy were out at the Barbados Museum and the Jewish Synagogue respectively, so I took advantage of my little alone time and was a DJ for a while. Side note: K. O. D. and Without Warning are hard and I’m a lot late to the party but Migos’ two albums are better than I thought they would be. Judge me.
So, first order of real business was to create the pattern I had in mind. The base design is actually the amalgamation of various prints, cut and pasted together in Photoshop and laid on top of a photo of a piece of black fabric. Took much longer than I needed it to. That base image was then flipped, duplicated, pieced together and the process repeated until I got what I wanted. With that, the day was almost up.
I worked on this piece for the rest of the week, getting lost midway, questioning what exactly I was trying to say with the piece and if I could properly translate how I felt without the reading of it going very left. We’ll see.
Week 4 Monday was spent preparing materials for an African mask inspired portraiture collage project that I, along with Katherine and Daisy, would conduct with the Class 4 students at Workman’s Primary School the next day. This project, which was my community outreach portion of the residency, was my personal highlight of the last week and a half. Daisy, Katherine and I all ended up making one. It was fun.
All things considered, a relatively complicated week and a half where everything didn’t go to plan, but an ultimately satisfying one.
Last blog post I stopped at the end of Tuesday afternoon’s meeting with the class 4 students at Workman’s Primary. That same evening turned out to be an equally enjoyable exercise of a different sort. I had the pleasure of being a part of a sacred reading session, spearheaded by Daisy, where we engaged in a critical dissection of a few paragraphs of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I thought the discussions that arose from the text, as well as the tangential ones, were all pretty dope. Reading and learning like this is something I’d recommend to any person(s) seeking an in depth appreciation for what they are studying.
Unfortunately, the rest of the week took a bittersweet turn with an emphasis on the bitter portion of that concoction. Tuesday evening was to be the last day I saw Daisy, as her time in Barbados came to an end shortly after. A shame, as I felt I had gotten to know more about her in the last few times we were in the space together. I wish her the best.
Then on a heavier note, serious, senseless but thankfully not tragic events unrelated to Fresh Milk occurred on what was to be my last day of the residency. While not affecting the space, these events did have a negative effect on my state of mind and mentality. It also got me thinking about the multiple times I’ve been asked why my work deals with certain subject matter by strangers and even family members. If I needed something to galvanize the conviction I have for what I’m trying to do with my work, it was what happened that morning.
I did manage to finish the piece I’d been working on the week before. That’s the silver lining from the latter half of week 4. I called it Noose-sense. An obvious play on the word nuisance, but I don’t think the reading of the piece will be as obvious. I like that.
All in all, what can I say at the end of these 4 weeks? It was quick, much quicker than I thought it’d be. I didn’t get as much done from the production side as I intended, but it doesn’t feel like a waste. If anything there’s a significant clarity in exactly what I want to do; now it’s just a matter of execution.