Sam Rountree Williams has developed his own unique aesthetic, making paintings that deftly explore the loneliness of subjective experience. Though his work seems to take artistic cue—stylistic references, spatial constructs and repeated motifs—from the style of painting one associates with outsider/self-taught artists, or the tradition of naïve (folk) painting, he works at a scale, and with a palette and materials that set his practice apart from the amateur. It becomes clear that the relationship to naïve/folk painting is less that he is taking stylistic cues from those works and more that he is finding a space to be naïve himself. He has carved out a language where he isn’t just eloquently repeating what others have said—his works are idiosyncratic, charming, completely original. They also swell with loneliness or a sense of unease. The scenarios in his paintings are imagined, but relate to waking reality as a dream does. Of this he says, ‘In my paintings there’s no before or after what is depicted: they move without going anywhere.’ His works feature recurring characters, such as a central, solitary figure that evokes Caspar David Friedrich’s romantic ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’, though in a more cartoonish style. This abstraction works to make the paintings less autobiographical. Instead it helps the viewers to identify more directly with the sentiments and situations in the paintings by projecting themselves into the role of the protagonist.
Sam Rountree Williams (b. 1986, Hamilton, New Zealand) lives and works in Berlin. He gained his BFA from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland, in 2007; and from 2009-10 he was a guest student at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Recent exhibitions include: Dreamers, Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington (2021); Sam Rountree Williams, Sumer, Tauranga (2020); Sam Rountree Williams and Sabine Voltz, Sonneundsolche, Düsseldorf (2019); Cell, Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington (2019); and Sam Rountree Williams and L&Z Elements, May & Kuhn, Berlin (2018).