Saturday, October 11, 2014

Allen Williams Presents: Summoned

Penance, in (gasp) color!
I'm going to out Mr. Williams here: I originally knew his work way back in the day, back when he was referred to by his first name (Allen is his middle name) and he worked primarily in the fantasy roleplaying game/tabletop game publishing world as an illustrator. His work was very different back then... for one thing, he painted in color. Yeah, in COLOR. It's hard to believe, I know.

When "Allen" was introduced to me a few years ago by Tara Larsen Chang, I didn't even realize I was looking at the work of the same person from way back when. For one thing, there was almost no color at all. Value and gradation took it's place, as if he sat and read the tome of the ancients who developed the Atelier Method and locked onto the mantra: Color is secondary to Value. If you nail your values in your composition, any color palette will do.
Tree of Tales, from the FAERIE show 2012
Brush was replaced by the Good ol' #2 (that's a pencil for you kids out there).

Nobody really knows how Allen "does it", but he is able to push and pull values and forms like a master sculptor. His eye understands how to create the lumps and valleys that form objects when a light source caresses it like a sleepy lover. He definitely understands anatomy enough to mangle it into the twisted bits of flesh that form arms, legs, and the occasional extra bit that we're not sure what it is but looks pretty cool. Horns and nails and other keratin growths protrude outward from his figures, curling and twisting into pretty forms. And everything is clean, perfect, spotless.

As an illustrator myself, I'm in awe. I've seen his work in person many times and I've even tilted the paper to the side and checked the surface for any kind of human indentation. There are none. No pencil marks, eraser bits, grooves, nothing. His work is so pristine, I have had to write up Letters of Authenticity to some of his collectors that the piece they bought is in fact original and not a giclee (that's a print for you kids out there).
If Beauty Were a Book, graphite, from the "Quote the Raven" show
We have been lucky to show at least two award-winning drawings from Allen, who, with his amazing wife and manager Victoria, has shown Krab Jab Studio and Seattle a lot of love. When I approached them about doing a show for October 2014, Allen was fast becoming a hot item after completing concept work for the movie "Pacific Rim", and joining the jury panel for the celebrated fantasy annual Spectrum. I was kind of surprised they agreed, considering Allen's packed schedule, and I was little concerned he might not be able to fill all our walls (his drawings are often on the smaller side). I suggested he headline a show, pick a theme, and pick a few supporting artists that he admired. He sent me a rather long list actually, and a few of the artists could not commit, but our French faction came through with Yoann Lossel, Olivier Villoingt, and Virginie Ropars, a group who enthusiastically joined in despite their own hectic schedules (all three will be part of a February show here as well as attendees of the Mythic Worlds convention in Seattle next year). Allen also invited Australian artist Rodrigo Luff as well as US artists Forest Rogers and Kyle Abernethy. With his talented posse formed, he came up with the theme: "Summoned". When asked what that means to him, he cryptically replied:
Summoned: called to be present.
We as artists are summoned to do the work that we do.
We in turn summon the work from within by the practice of discipline, tempered and magnified by passion.
...and finally,
the viewer is summoned to complete the ritual in observation of its fulfillment.
This is what we Summon.

Infected, graphite
In spite of the fact that thousands of miles separated all these artists, each one came to the table with work that complimented the other beautifully. The rendering in each piece is masterful, the vision is dark and mysterious. From Virginie Ropars' homage to Allen's "Her" drawing to Kyle Abernethy's take on an apocalyptic landscape, each piece clearly nods to Allen without losing its own originality.
Her, graphite, part of the "Dark Woods" show

Her, mixed media polymer sculpture, Virginie Ropars
The Loud Little Handful, oil on panel, Kyle Abernethy
Whatever Allen did about 10 years ago, whatever mantra he read and adhered to, whatever demon he pledged his soul to, if he suddenly went colorblind - whatever it was, his vision and direction no doubt will continue to inspire and awe us for many many years. This show is only a small step on a long, winding staircase.
Online catalog will be available to view October 12th, and the show will run through October 31st with a bang, as we'll be celebrating Halloween at Krab Jab Studio that evening.

Opening reception on October 11th will have Kyle Abernethy in attendance who will be participating in the Artist Talk at 7:30 pm. Doors open at 6 pm, and for those seeking guidance, tarot reader Iya Falana will be there reading the cards and telling the future.

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