Chromatic Variations VII

Mervyn Williams, Artist

This is one of the prints in our collection. It was made in New Zealand in 1969.
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Object Detail

About the Work
Mervyn Williams is another of the earliest Tylee Cottage residents, arriving third in 1988, following Laurence Aberhart and Andrew Drummond in 1986 and 1987 respectively. Williams’ approach to abstraction is more formal and geometric than some of the more expressionistic painters of the time, and much of his work focuses on optical and illusionistic effects, following the Op art style that had been popular at the time. His works can be technically impressive too, especially the high level of detail in this early series of prints, which are inspired by musical structures. They resemble the early experiments by filmmakers, including Len Lye, to create visual representations of or responses to music through movement, shape and colour. Much in the way that Cecelia Kumeroa and Dr. Billy van Uitregt’s Dawn Chorus, currently on display in the gallery, visualises bird song in Bushy Park Tarapuruhi. Visual music and art-music-sound overlaps are a favourite subject of mine and is part of the reason that I also have a role as a trustee of the Len Lye Foundation.
Marti Friedlander took a number of photos of Williams outside his house on the west coast of Auckland, and his son Marcus appears in several. Marcus, who was the chair of the Te Uru board when I first started there, is also an artist and was the recipient of a Tylee Cottage residency in 2000-01 with his artist partner, Susan Jowsey. They often collaborate, also involving their children, as the F4 collective.
- Andrew Clifford, for the My Choice Exhibition Series, April 2023

This work is one a series of screenprints, the name of which reflects Mervyn Williams’ love of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music and also refers to variations in colour. He has said that Chromatic Variations IX can be looked at as if it was a Tibetan mandala, rather than simply being a design. Williams’ painting and printing have always centred on formal abstraction. In the Chromatic Variations series he abstracted forms in a complex manner and experimented with different colours in each print. Williams was born in Whakatane in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. In 1956 he met artist Ted Dutch (b. 1928) who got him interested in silk-screen work. Williams studied at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland. He won First Prize in the Graphic Section of the Hay’s Art Award in 1966 and was represented in the ‘International Biennale Exhibition of Graphic Art’ in Tokyo in 1966 and 1972. Williams also won the New Zealand Print Council Samarkand Award in 1969.
- (accessioned Mar 2023)
Image 458 x 712mm
Support 562 x 762mm
screenprint on paper
Screenprint comprising of a dense field of symmetrical pattern and juxtaposed intense colour. There is a central blue cross form (vertical and horizontal bars) behind which is an angled cross form in red. Every surface within the pattern is comprised of bands and fields of very small repeating patters. The predominent colours are bright blue and bright red and the effect of these colours competing with each other as well as the detailed patterns form an optical effect bringing some areas forward and pushing other areas back creating an illusion of depth. Also the repetitive lines and patterns almost make the eye 'sing' or vibrate the image as if it is pulsing and the circle wheels in the four corners rotate.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery, Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Purchased, 1996
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
09 Jul 1996



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