Prince Duncan Williams

Enter Prince Duncan Williams Gallery


Few musical styles are as colorful as jazz, and artist Prince Duncan Williams knows this. Composed with silk as smooth as the music of John Coltrane and with a explosive vivacity of colors that brings to mind the frenzied syncopation of New Orleans-style jazz, Prince silk mosaics succeed in creating something of a miracle: jazz without sound.

Born in Ghana in West Africa to a family tradition working with silk thread art nearly four decades in the making. These silk threads are the same thread that is used to make kente, the cloth famously used for Royal clothing for the Akan people. Prince moved to the United States to continue his studies in architectural drafting in 1982. By 1996, Prince had drifted away from architectural drafting and, intrigued by his cousin's work with silk mosaic art. He began his own training in silk mosaics, integrating the intensive silk mosaic art with his lifelong sketches. Three years later, Prince has developed and perfected this art carried down from generations to create breathtaking large scale masterpieces. Prince developed a style that merged both African and American/European traditions, much like jazz itself, ranging from the abstract and spare beauty of "The Spirit" to the whimsical fun of "Disney Jazz club" and "Disney Jazz Band".

Much like the brass instruments that swing at a Chicago jazz club, Prince's works of art reflect the surrounding light with an energy that intensifies as you move. Like the flashy clothes of dancers at a packed speakeasy, his choices of silk shine brightly amid an ecstasy of fractured color with an effect reminiscent of light through stained glass or a lavish kaleidoscope. Much like the improvisational nature of the best jazz, Duncan-Williams' work starts with a thin, penciled outline on a special board from which the rest of the composition evolves.

From there, Prince carefully spreads glue all over the board and carefully hand-lays the rows of thread which work around a spiral and, every so often, change directions, creating facets, patterns and depth. These contrasting flows of colorful thread enhance the texture and mood of each dazzling image, creating a truly unique art form unto itself. Viewing his art, it becomes clear that Prince is a first rate soloist: despite often stirring complexity of his hand-made compositions, never once does he use a stitch, and depending on the size, a single silk mosaic can require between 30 to 320 hrs of meticulous labor. Each work of art is handsomely framed in black to attract attention to the central colors.

Today, the art of Prince Duncan-Williams has been exhibited throughout America, most notably in the Smithsonian Craft Show earlier this year at the opulent National Building Museum. Claiming inspiration from artists such as Matisse, Picasso and Romero Bearden, Prince also acknowledges the influence of jazz on his work. He especially has a soft spot for the music of the contemporary English jazz artist Paul Hardcastle, which can usually be heard in the background as Duncan-Williams creates his newest work of art. Above all, Prince says, the music reminds him what all of his creations should be: smooth, cool and utterly unforgettable.

Artist statement:

Since childhood, I've always wanted to create works of art that impart distinct sensations of dynamic movement to their viewers, and I believe I have achieved this sensation in each of my creations. Above all, I love seeing viewers smile when they connect with the vitality of my silk mosaic art. My silk mosaics are best known for their strong and unique use of color, the latter of which I have always had a strong relationship with. Color has energized and intrigued me for as long as I can remember. Thirty five years of self-taught artist and sixteen years in silk art experience has led me to a very saturated, bold, and recognizable silk mosaic art.