BFA Stamps ’16, Nicholas Williams goes by NIKI — all-CAPS, an ostentatious name rather representative of his larger-than life work. His pop-up show “Nothing By Conquest” displays his work inspired by cave paintings, painted entirely on the floor.
Although the installation showcases painting, Williams’s work uses many mediums. In the video, “Derelict Dandy” Williams provides a peek into his process, an art piece itself. The video depicts Williams’s touchstone characters, clothed in bright costumes and masks that only reveal the eyes and long, phallic noses. The characters run around — skateboarding, vandalizing, bathing, making indiscriminate sounds and generally wreaking havoc. The film is cut with bouts of static and the sounds of breathing.
“Painting and performance are both integral to my practice, I mostly react to sounds, either noises I create or good music. I create as a way to process philosophy and to conduct research into ways of being,” said Williams in an email interview.
Williams’s work is consumed with the corporeal, and includes repeated motifs of the body, especially as it is exists in larger structures. The “Industrialization of Pangea” is reminiscent of the image of a globe, containing many faces. “Agon” too is a collection of faces with Williams’s signature long noses, the faces interwoven with flags, and in the top right corner a large face wearing a crown. “Ameriglob” evokes a warped American flag in muted versions of red and blue, dusted with reflective particles of white. Motifs of the country and the world support Williams’s perspective on art, storytelling and mark-making as means of protest or defiance.
“The body is a vessel to the soul which has feelings caused by one’s environment and socialization and so the bodies I draw represent that,” Williams said.
His art allows the interplay of nature and nurture to unfold in his work — the personal of the human form among historical, political and geographical contexts, all as a mode of resistance.
Williams said he had no expectation or specific hope for what those who view his art might take away from them but said that he hopes they would think of, “‘structures’ in the broadest sense of the word.”
For work that seeks to raise such existential and universal questions, certain artistic motifs are autobiographical to Williams’ life and personal upbringing. Williams is from Downriver, MI, which he refers to as “the realest fake place in America.” In his work, he has included images of small houses and cars from his hometown.
Through painting and performance, Williams tells a story that challenges the confines of the world we live in.
“Recurring motifs in my work include alienation, and most everything I do boils down to the infinitely compelling question of ‘who are humans and what are their intentions?’” Williams said.
His work suggests that much of this humanity in question manifests in the ability to make a mark on an environment that communicates consciously and unconsciously to the soul, by way of the corporal form.