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London Art News: Sculptor David Williams-Ellis's ELEMENTAL Solo Exhibition Opens Today

Renowned sculptor David Williams-Ellis’s innovative solo sculpture exhibition ELEMENTAL opens today at the Portland Gallery and will run until 23rd December 2014. The exhibition centres on mankind’s relationship with the elements; how they affect and influence us, and how we are a part of the elements too. The exhibition consists of 21 new figurative sculptures all cast in bronze.


Describing the last 12 years as an “intense learning period” Williams-Ellis has used that time to experiment with patination [patina is a tarnish that is produced by oxidation or other chemical processes, causing bronze and similar metals to change colour]. Williams-Ellis’s deliberate use of patination means that his sculptures are imbued with bold colour ranging from the coldest blues to the warmest ochres.

The different colours symbolize different things. As the award-winning film and documentary maker Charlotte Metcalf observes in the foreword to the exhibition’s catalogue “some of his Umbrella Girls are in hues of blue that suggest the storms they are battling; others are in crumbly chalk, suggesting erosion and softening by wind.” Williams-Ellis’s use of patination was inspired by “the Benin Bronzes and the 2010 Life Uncovered exhibition” which he saw at the British Museum. Williams-Ellis loved “the coppery verdigis and deep, flaky reds and yellows as those West African sculptures came out of the earth”

In addition to enhancing his sculpture with vibrant colours, Williams-Ellis has also experimented with adding layers of texture to his figures, and it is this texture that brings such a sense of life and movement to his work. Many of his figures are shown to be wearing clothes, and even though these clothes are made from bronze, they still ripple with life and movement.

As well as using texture to create a sense of motion, Williams-Ellis also feels that space has a role to play in bringing his work to life; indeed he articulates how he uses negative space to his advantage. He argues that negative space is unavoidable but in the case of his Umbrella Girls, the umbrella pulls that energy right back into the figure causing them to resonate with vitality. The combined use of patination, texture and space set Williams-Ellis’s work apart from his contemporaries.

ELEMENTAL not only demonstrates Williams-Ellis’s artistic skill, it also shows his versatility as a sculptor. Whilst Williams - Ellis’s work is typically associated with the landscapes that he draws inspiration from, the figures showcased in the exhibition would enhance any interior setting, especially a home. As Metcalf so aptly puts it, “Williams-Ellis’s work varies in scale so that it enhances any environment, from hilltop or garden to corporate lobby or coffee table”.

Not only do Williams-Ellis’s sculptures suit a range of settings, they are also broadly appealing on an emotional level. Despite living in a very modern age, we are all still affected by the elements on a daily basis. In fact our frequent battle with the elements is something that unites all people, it’s something that we can all innately understand. What we do is still largely determined by the weather; for instance we may choose to stay inside if it’s raining, or tell ourselves that we feel happier if the sun is shining. Williams - Ellis’ work beautifully reflects our continual emotional response to the elements.

As well as causing viewers to respond on an emotional level, Williams - Ellis work also sometimes resonates on a physiological level. Indeed, even Williams-Ellis himself has asserted that when creating his work he feels an intense feeling “deep in the pit of his stomach”. Some viewers will feel a similar pull on seeing his sculptures, since they are so life-like they seem to have a spirit of their own.

This sense of emotion can be felt on watching Charlotte Metcalf’s latest film about the artist. The film gives viewers an insight into Williams-Ellis’s work, and is a must for anyone wanting to find out more about this brilliant and inspirational artist. The film makes me excited to see Williams-Ellis’s breathtaking work in person, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way after watching it.


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