Matthew Arthur Williams
Dundee Contemporary Arts
until 26th March 2023
The latest exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts combines striking photography, film, and sound to form a reflection on how landscapes and bodies act as conduits for memory. As Williams explores the physicality of record-keeping and the act of self-portraiture, we see the tenuous strings that bind us to physical spaces and moments in time. Every act of recollection is in itself the creation of a memory, a new connection that has ties to both the past and the present. The temporal dissonance of the different works on display is skilfully tailored to explore this subject matter through the subjects Williams chooses to depict and the media he uses to depict them. His records, such as the monochromatic photography negatives, 1970s reggae music, and images of Stoke-on-Trent, form a personal harmony drawn together by the shared history of the artist.
The main exhibition space is set up between two rooms, a bright room displaying a series of black and white photographs across the walls and floor and a dark room displaying two projections alongside photographs and found-object sculptures suspended in illuminated viewing boxes. The visual distinction between the two spaces plays well with the visual distinction between the two sets of work. In the first room the stark white walls allow the monochromatic photographs to really pop, especially given the relatively small size of the prints. The spacing is also well organised, as there are plenty of works on display without the room becoming crowded which is a delicate line when showing works that have a lot of visual overlap. The second room with the projections and boxes is comparatively dark, the only light coming from the projections and illuminated boxes, giving a warm and comforting atmosphere while also giving enough light to safely navigate the room. The low lighting is also well utilised in highlighting the soft colours of the film, Soon Come.
One of the focal points of this exhibition, Soon Come is a projected film and sound piece split across two large screens suspended opposite one another. Drawing from the artists’ shared history with England and Jamaica, Soon Come utilises a myriad of visuals and soundwork to connect pieces of history to his lived present. Stories told by his mother, music, and echoing voices overlay landscapes formed by layers of human history, forging the world as we understand it. The interaction between the audio and visuals are subtle and complex, flowing into one another over the course of the film. It is a joy to watch in its entirety, and I would recommend that anyone who has the opportunity takes the time to do so. The suspended boxes behind the projections hold photographic prints alongside small pins. The inside of these boxes is illuminated with bright orange light, mimicking the sunlight seen in the section of the film that accompanies the song ‘People Make the World Go Round’ by The Chosen Few.
The photography on display in the next room elegantly compliments the film piece. The photographs are simple, giving the viewer much-needed breathing space after the visual intricacy of the film, found object sculptures, and prints. They’re incredibly inviting, pulling you in to see their complexity upon closer inspection. The stark landscapes and brutalist architecture depicted are perfectly suited to the art form, with the monochromatic style bringing the striking nature of the scenes to full effect.
The meditative nature of this exhibition makes it a very welcoming space. I would recommend taking the time to engage with as much of the work as possible, as each piece is worth the time and effort.