William Feaver on Liam Walker's works
Liam Walker’s drawings flaunt, with exquisite aplomb, the workings of an uncannily observant imagination. Each one of them may be seen to represent a state of mind or some real life incident and obviously we aren’t necessarily to know precisely who, what or when. Beyond that the images resound. Their prime function is to represent and then (what the heck?) set us guessing.
Here we are then, faced with scraps and tableaux of striking instances, introduced to faits accomplis or moments of catastrophic disappointment: summers turning wintry, patience unrewarded. Some are simply conjectural; more often there’s the untoward to greet us, as when, strolling in the park, the artist is surprised by a sudden gush of flame raging between his shoulder blades. Philosophically he thinks up his title: ‘Misfortune rather than calamity.’
Many such untoward occasions are mute in effect. Some appear revelatory, open to angelic intervention, but they stress the indeterminate. Thus it is that states of mind are evoked along with the everyday dilemmas. ‘Man under dining table hiding from absolutely everything’ involves a half empty glass and two rigid chairs, neither of them affording protection or obscurity. Note the quality of the penciled half tone: even the blankest backgrounds bloom.
Such scenes or arrangements represent issues arising, images being the outcomes of phenomenal tenacity, incidents stippled into mood. The boy standing at the bus stop pillows his head vertically and settles into a pre-night bus sulk. Elsewhere death of faith manifests itself. Propped up on a pair of pillows an elder self -still young though- holds his rosary loosely in the disconcerting role of being living dead or, as he puts it, ‘Awake at one’s wake.’
Alert to the drawbacks of confessional literature (such veiled candour) Liam proceeds with terrific third degree fatalism. His pictures (both pencil and acrylics) demonstrate that the processes of filtration (fuming clouds, super-deft pencil touches greying the paper) both dim and clarify. Anxieties stiffen. Things become tinged with wariness.
Such imagery, scaled back as it proceeds into show-and-tell, risks over-exposure. It could so readily curdle into the equivalent of bookish descriptive narrative, oozing purple passages. Remedial tactics involve clarification and severe distancing. As demonstrated in, for example, the bijou semi-housing, inserted as though for target practice, in ‘Romance isn’t dead darling, it’s just absent without leave.’ Which is as close as Liam Walker gets to venting diatribes in the style of George Orwell’s ‘Coming up for Air.’ Then again, trees shaped like walnut whips assemble far behind in ‘Our Lady in Ravenscourt Park, W4’. She, the Lady, has her back to them but each and every crease in her dress is telling. We are left imagining what portends.
William Feaver is a British art critic, curator, artist and lecturer. From 1975–1998 he was the chief art critic of the Observer, and from 1994 a visiting professor at Nottingham Trend University. He won the Art Critic of the Year award in 1983. Feaver conducted an exemplary interview with Lucian Freud in 1992, The artist out of cage on Freud's 70th birthday, which has been re-published in English and German in the catalog of the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt exhibition Lucian Freud: Naked Portraits. His 2019 book, The Lives of Lucian Freud, was shortlisted for the 2019 Baillie Gifford Prize.