My speech from the launch of Alex Williams: The Survival of an Artist, which took place at The Idler last night.
Artists and the art works they create have been a source of fascination for me ever since my early childhood. My father was a humble bank official whose interests in life were rather few and uninspiring in general, but conversely he developed a mania for collecting paintings and other objects of vertu. He did this, I may add, out of very limited financial resources.
Consequently I grew up in an environment that became the trigger for setting me off into becoming an art collector myself, and taking up work within a parallel medium that embraced the luxury goods market on an international scale with an appreciation of all levels of fine craftsmanship that this implied.
So, in my other function as a publisher, I feel it is natural for me to present the life and work of an artist of the calibre of Alex Williams in book form.
It will certainly give me great pleasure if, in the role of publisher, I can be a kind of bridge between the artist and the wider public who may not be fully conversant with the immense contribution he has made to the world of modern paintings.
Art itself is bound to be a reflection of the artist, of his life and of his struggles to attain recognition. These aspects are as relevant today as they have ever been. Modern technology has changed a great deal in our society and made it so much more difficult for the gifted person to sustain the creative edge of his or her endeavours and development.
Alex Williams is an artist with a uniqueness that lets him inhabit his own space, unafraid to move forward with his projects and willing to take risks and change working environments in pursuit of his art. On a personal level, his bonhomie and flexibility are infectious and make him charming company.
He has achieved that rare accolade of being a painter whose commercial success has not compromised his reputation as one of the significant artists of the present age. On the one hand, his cards and pottery reproductions have made him a top-selling graphic designer in National Trust gift shops all over the United Kingdom. On the other, his original paintings are recognised as highly desirable by collectors and respected by critical opinion.
Alex’s road has not been an easy one. His life has not been without its problems and heartbreak. To bring his work to where it is today has required a steely determination to succeed over many obstacles where others might have failed or abandoned the fight.
Liz Hodgkinson, the well-known Daily Mail journalist, has written an absorbing text to accompany the colour illustrations, and makes this a production that transcends the usual kind of illustrated art book. The picture selection is profuse, generous and illuminating.
The Survival of an Artist traces the early influences on his work, from the serene river banks and cottages of East Anglia, where he grew up, to the explosive impact of pop art that greeted him as a first-year student at St Martin’s in the early 1960s.
Now he stands as a much-desired artist both here and in the United States, where he lived for many years. However, he continues to develop his art, with no sign of his creative impulses falling into stagnation.
Alex Williams is a man to admire, and we are gathered here today to celebrate the man and his art. What better praise and acknowledgement can we heap on him than to buy copies of his book to mark a culmination of his well-deserved success?