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Bedwyr Williams: Internal Conversations

by Adam Carr

Images courtesy Bedwyr Williams

Adam Carr in conversation with Bedwyr Williams, illustrated portraits of Adam Carr and Bedwyr Williams

Adam Carr: The work presented in 1-31 is part of a series of drawings you have been doing that are presented on your Instagram account. The tone of each of the drawings have a sardonic humour that runs throughout, which points to many of the clichés that are synonymous with the artworld. I have recognised myself in them a few times. Is it not true that these have offended people previously? They do not highlight anybody in particular however and they are more open ended.

Bedwyr Williams: I think after a long time of tentatively making work that satirised what I came across as an artist a few years ago I thought I don’t want to do this obliquely any more. I want to say it simplistically almost like a teenager. To talk about curator breath, affected artists, fussy designers and their little shoes, etc. I was always told that you shouldn’t make work about the artworld which always seemed daft to me when people make art about art all the time. I don’t base the drawings on anyone, I usually look at the eyes I’ve just drawn and then I think ‘where have I seen someone like this before?’ Basel? An awful Sunday afternoon performance event? I’ve lost followers. I like wondering which drawing pushed them over the edge.

AC: The drawings are incredibly observant. I do feel the artworld takes itself too seriously at times. It is often a hermetic system that speaks to itself. Do you enjoy the immediacy and ease of use that Instagram brings as a way of presenting the drawings? 

BW: I think I’m interested in the little discretely defined hierarchies and interest groups, and how the private and professional are blurred. Visits to older revered artists homes by younger curators documented on Instagram are a particular favourite because they are half gran visit, half pilgrimage.

There’s an unspoken etiquette to all these interactions. I can only guess I don’t have access to much of how this works, but I usually start with the banal and guess the work up.

Artwork of Bedwyr Williams, ink on paper, caption:
I’ve also been struck over the last few years by the hyperbolic and over the top comments below the images, so I’ve been adding my own comments praising or criticising myself.

AC: Could you say something about the process of their making? 

BW: They are all hand drawn and scanned. I draw them with a brush pen on square paper and photograph them with an iPhone. Instagram is popular with artists, so it seemed a perfect place to show the drawings. I think artists think they have their own unique take on the platform, but really it’s the same humble bragging and bum shots that everyone else is doing.

I’ve also been struck over the last few years by the hyperbolic and over the top comments below the images, so I’ve been adding my own comments praising or criticizing myself.

Artwork of Bedwyr Williams, ink on paper.

AC: The comments are a new development, making them become part of the whole thing. You are taking to yourself essentially but channelling different Instagram personalities. You are picking up on the non-meaning, self-congratulatory attitude that pervades much of Instagram. Maybe your project is pointing out that insightful art criticism is dwindling

BW: I’m not sure that criticism even exists as such on Instagram. It’s used more as a bazaar for a kind of polished personal reportage by curators and artists alike. There’s an amusing rub between the public posts and stories and the private direct messages where you get to hear what people really think of someone’s poolside pics. I like when a famous or buzz artist posts a baby picture or a touching old relative photo seeing the most unlikely people coo in the comments. When someone dies it’s even crazier.

Comments on Bedwyr Williams' Instagram account
Image of an illustration by Bedwyr Williams

Bedwyr Williams – Untitled, 2019, Ink on paper, 86 x 112 cm, SR-WILL3179. Courtesy Southard Reid Gallery.

Photo of an Artwork by Bedwry Williams

AC: Are all of the drawings framed after they appear on Instagram? Do you see the work differently – as it appears on Instagram versus as it appears physically as a drawing, as it is then framed and presented in an exhibition? 

BW: Some drawings are framed the rest stack up. I’ve thought about how it’s a bit like photographing receipts for the taxman. I think I like both drawings look nice on screens in a way that paintings don’t.

Ac: The drawings are constant. It is a real commitment on your part – a dedication to creativity, not only in terms of drawing but also imagination through the continuous invention of different characters. A lot of your other work appears quite differently formally, though it is very close conceptually to these drawings. What are you working on at the moment? 

BW: I do one a night and one each morning, unless something interferes with that. They are different formally to the other work and that might have bothered me up until a few years ago, but I don’t think about that anymore. I wasted a lot of time in the noughties worrying about things like that. I think coming back to Instagram that what I like about that is that it allows people to fire out volleys of disconnected images together. It’s a real bran barrel. I lampoon it, but I do actually like it. I’m figuring out at the moment how to make a book of the drawings, anything else is a secret until I have time to mull over it for a while.


This interview is part of a series of special features for the exhibition ‘1-31’ curated by Adam Carr.

Experience the Digital Exhibition '1-31'

The Museum of Private Collections

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