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Discovery: Philemona Williamson

African-American Philemona Williamson was born in New York in 1951, and this is her first exhibition in Europe.

This highlights the challenges that artists of this heritage have faced for a very long time. Despite this, Williamson's picture is understated, alluring at first with its vibrant harmonies, mysterious and depressing the more we look at it. These are odd scenes, half sensual, half disturbing: a young woman about to choke a blue-eyed goose; a blonde adolescent seemingly crushing on a black boy; a boy with an excessively large buoy around his neck; an ugly brunette who seems to be trying to drown a black adolescent or just wash her hair. Flowers and watermelons refer to the Deep South, a region where slaves toiled in the fields. Less harsh references include languid postures and translucent negligees. Others still originate from the artist's early years. His painting is unique in that it combines autobiography, oneirism—which pays little attention to verisimilitude—and personal symbolism. In this context, the word "revelation" is not overused.

Website of the artist: https://www.philemonawilliamson.com/


On Wikepedia:

Williamson prefers to paint with oil on linen. Many of her pictures show children and adolescents, drawing on her imagination and her own childhood. The paintings, in vibrant colors, may be interpreted as showing sadness or childhood innocence. Her work is postmodernist, figurative art in which she explores her private identity. She has said, "I do not make 'black art'. If my work bridges racial gaps, it is because I am sharing a part of myself and I happen to be black. My paintings are about my fascination with color and shape. In her words, "My paintings are of pre-adolescent girls and boys, children on the cusp of adulthood. The figures struggle to balance their innocence and awkwardness with their newfound sexuality. The figures are involved in their own drama when the observer discovers them; it is a surprise to both. The questions begin at this point…Who are these children? What are they doing and why? Ethnicity and gender are questioned."


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