VALE - Liz Williams 1942-2017

I want to make beautiful work. I want to make work that’s inspiring. There is enough ugliness in the world. I don’t really want to reflect on that in my work. I want to reflect on something that takes you beyond that. Liz Williams 2016

Anyone who knew Liz Williams will remember her charming, charismatic and gentle nature. She was an astute observer of life and possessed a fine intellect, but lived life with the vitality and curiosity of a child—a true enthusiast who seized every opportunity for new experiences.

Liz died in March after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just after Christmas. When I last spoke with her she was philosophical and resolute, and commented that she was neither angry nor bitter because she had lived a great and fulfilling life and had done all she wanted to do.

Liz was a remarkable teacher. She came to Pembroke from UniSA’s Art School in 1994. Initially terrified by the prospect of teaching young children, she soon discovered a depth in her relationship with them that took her by surprise. Her interest in children and knowledge of the way they learn was clear, and she provided her students with that important balance of gentle encouragement and rigour. Liz delighted in their achievements and they adored her. She was passionate about imparting her love of beautiful things to them so that they could begin to have real insight and understanding about creative work.

After taking students on the 2001 Marree Exchange, she became intricately involved in the Pembroke–Marree focus group and saw this as a tangible way towards reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

She was the most inspirational colleague and also a gifted and well-respected artist. Many would be aware of her exquisite ceramic sculptural works. Her 1998 exhibition Cinderella Dressed in Yella captured the movement and poses of children at play with deft accuracy, and her 2006 exhibition Let’s Dance paralleled this theme. Her 2001 exhibition Reconstructed Rituals took inspiration from the lives of martyred saints and further explored the notion of what it means to be female.

Liz’s work is held in high esteem throughout Australia and the rest of the world. The Australia Council funded overseas studios for her three times: in Mexico (1991), Barcelona (1996) and Rome (2004). These residencies fed her arts practice and her teaching. An expert in her chosen field, Liz worked with many of the heavyweights of the Australian art world, including Milton Moon AM and Gwyn Hanssen-Pigott.

She left Pembroke in 2006 to focus full-time on her own work, and continued to do this right up until the week before she died, when, with the aid of a close friend, she completed work undertaken in 2016 during her final residency in Shigaraki, Japan.

Liz’s swansong was at her own funeral—a stunning display of her work from the Saints series, which she curated to divine perfection. And with a touch of humour and irreverence, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance played while we all watched a photographic montage of her wonderful life.

Mr Ferrier
Director of Visual Art