Justene Williams was born in Sydney and completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the University of Western Sydney in 1991. Further art education was undertaken at Sydney College of the Arts (Postgraduate Diploma in 1992 and a Master of Visual Arts in 2006). Williams’ early work revolved around photography and utilised the ad hoc nature of disposable cameras and one-hour printing labs. The locations for these early photographic projects were sites of public recreation: shopping centres, car shows and strip clubs; and the resultant imagery channeled the energy of popular culture while often being luxuriously abstract. Often, Williams images were the rescued “out-takes” from rolls of film; the out of focus, blurred “mistakes” that mysteriously hinted at figuration, but eluded resolution.
In 2005 Williams’ interest in photography was subsumed into the medium of video. Coupled with her interest in choreography and performance (Williams danced as a child), she began to use video as a performative medium, creating elaborate sets and costumes from “waste” materials in which absurd, repetitive actions were executed. These delirious choreographies in fabulist settings have the aura of voodoo, with the artist channelling various periods from art history in an effort to reconstruct the essence of forgotten images. Through the physical collaging of materials to construct her complex sets and costumes, and the digital collaging and editing of video, Williams invokes the ghosts of artists past.
In _Bighead Garbageface Guards Ghost Derr Sonata _at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney in 2009, Willliams conjures the spirits of Dada artists Kurt Schwitters, Sophie Tauber Arp and Man Ray. In Berlin Burghers Microwave at Penrith Regional Gallery in 2010, Williams summoned Auguste Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais (1889) and Claude Monet’s Waterlilies, and in the MCA’s Crutch Dance in 2011, a Futurist figure vainly does battle with a treadmill, invoking Umberto Boccioni’s famous sculpture Continuity of Unique Form in Space (1913). Justene Wiiliams’ embracing of both high and low art, history and salvage, painting and video, results in a hypnotic new form of recycling – a curiously ‘carbon neutral’ method of image production.