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Celebrating the silence

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OTHERWORLDLY ‘A Return to Silence’, acrylic and wax on paper, one of the artworks in Jane Williams’s upcoming solo show at The Custom House Studios Gallery at Westport Quay.

Custom House Gallery reopens with evocative Jane Williams exhibition

Ciara Moynihan

The Custom House Studios Gallery, Westport, is reopening its doors at last with an exhibition of ethereal work by Louisburgh-based artist Jane Williams. The exhibition, entitled ‘Earth’s Silent Embrace’, explores ‘the importance of Silence and the deep relationship we can have with the natural world if we choose to listen’.  
Williams began her artist career in London with a degree in fine art/textiles from Goldsmiths’ College, London. She went on to study painting at GMIT, and she is now working as a professional artist from her studio in Louisburgh.
In recent years she has shown her work in solo, joint and group shows as part of Westival, the Westport arts festival, and she has exhibited in group shows at Green Fuse Gallery, Westport; The Linenhall, Castlebar; the Courthouse, Oughterard; and the Townhall Gallery, Galway. In 2019, her work was selected for Cairde Visual at The Model in Sligo.
Williams says she has been influenced by a wide and diverse range of styles, ‘from medieval illuminated manuscripts and early renaissance artists, such as Giotto and Fra Angelico, through early 20th-century illustration, such as Arthur Rackham, to the magical realism of Peter Doig, Paula Rego and Janet Mullarney’.
‘Earth’s Silent Embrace’ – her first solo show at the Custom House – was supposed to  open at the venue on March 20, but the exhibition had to be hastily cancelled as the effects of the pandemic swept across our lives.
While the cancellation was undoubtedly a huge disappointment to the artist and those looking forward to the show, maybe in one way its postponement has been serendipitous. While the lockdown has caused hardship, it has also had some silver linings. As life slowed and the busy thrum of frenetic human activity subsided, many people found themselves reconnecting with and finding comfort in nature’s beauty and quiet rhythms. And so perhaps the exhibition’s theme will have an even greater resonance for viewers now.  
In her artist’s statement for the show, Williams says: “I think of my work as an attempt to express my search for silence. In this quietness we can sense how our human life is interwoven with all natural things, how all that is around us, human and non-human, is breathing the same breath. In this realisation we are able to contact the most vital depths of our humanity.”
She goes on to explain that the works in ‘Earth’s Silent Embrace’, ‘depict otherworldly landscapes which illustrate the connection between us, the elements and our Earth’. These landscapes often contain figurative elements.
“I have always had a fascination with religious icons and how they provide a doorway to a sacred world,” Williams explains. “They are present in my acrylic and watercolour paintings as intangible and faceless figures which exist beyond time and place.
“Conversely, my ink drawings depict more personal, tender and enchanted moments of silence. In each case my aim is to transport the viewer into a quiet place so they can ‘listen’ to the colours of a dawn sky, ‘hear’ the warm breath of a tree or and sense the beat of the universal heart.”
Could there be any better way to ease ourselves back into the world as we reemerge from lockdown than this visual treat? A bewitching reminder to keep our ears, eyes and hearts open, and ourselves connected to the natural world around us.   

‘Earth’s Silent Embrace’, an exhibition of work by Jane Williams, opens at the Custom House Studios Gallery, The Quay, Westport, on Monday, June 29, and it will run until July 19. Meet the artist in the gallery on Saturday, July 4, and Saturday, July 11, from 1pm to 4pm. Please note that social distancing guidelines will be in place at the gallery.