Hello, my name is Ryan Christopher Williams, 463256. Currently my art practice is situated in one of the most hostile environments possible, prison.
Among the bashings, strip searches, stabbings and lockdowns, I have remade myself into an artist. I am many things, but above all, I am an Artist.
Twelve years ago, I committed a horrible, unforgivable act of drug fueled violence. I took a life.
I ruined many lives that night. My victim’s, her family's, my communities, my own family’s and least of all, my own life.
What is my punishment for bringing forth such hurt and ruin into the world? Every single day locked in a small cell with only extreme regret, pain and suffering to keep me company.
For my actions I will forever be ashamedly sorry.
To explain my deep shame is not easy. I have no forgiveness for myself. To wake up every single day in my cage knowing I can never undo my actions as a stupid boy, ever. My path is haunted for the rest of my days. Nothing can ever lift or diminish this weight.
Prison is a place of watchful boredom and flashing violence. There are constant trials all inmates must face. One can never fully be relaxed, for the desperate and hungry never cease their searching and scanning with tense, jaded peepers.
Dealing with physical pain while inside prison is at least an enemy you can see and face head on.
What breaks a man down slowly over many isolated years are the formless whispers of demons from within your own mind, trying to let depression, doubt and despair feed on guilt. It festers too deep to remove easily.
Negative whispers of the mind can cut so much deeper than any blade in the yard.
My work as an artist explores the dark places inside my mind where my hope and reason do battle against the whispering demons within.
I use inscape as a way to self-reflect and bring light into the landscape of my mind, peeling away the layered gloom in a light-hearted manner.
Mental illness and it's many shapes and forms feature heavily in all my work. Pain and regret are basic feelings in all humans, even the very high can be broken. I only pray my work may shine a light onto someone else's darkness, bring them hope in knowing it's ok to be a little broken. That just maybe by sharing my own flaws, others may realise they are not alone, that we all hurt, but how we deal with our hurt can either make us stronger or weaker.
Prison has provided me with everything an artist needs to step into the professional realm.
Pain, Drive and Time.
My every day is devoted to art. If not painting, drawing or sculpting, I'm reading any art book or article I can get my hands on. Having no internet access, I just rely on myself and just figure things out with hard work. I live for the artistic struggle.
Prison has driven my art in many directions. From painting portraits and cards to swap for food, to a five-year run as a very in-demand prison tattooist, I have spent years on end pushing my skills in every direction possible.
Drawing, painting & sculpture dominated the first five years of my sentence, after which the government cut arts funding for all prisons, so I swapped my paint brush for a tattoo gun. In prison this can be a dangerous medium, but it did instill love for a well-crafted line in high-pressure situations.
After my prison placement changed to Macquarie Correctional Centre, I was lucky enough to be employed as a full-time artist, tasked with completing massive hand-painted murals around the new prison. This was my dream come true. The tattooing has been put on hold until my earliest possible release in 2026.
Myself and a fellow inmate artist put everything we had into these murals, spending the last two and a half years honing our craft like never before.
Our hard work was rewarded when the prison arranged for Kim Spooner, Art Teacher from the National Art School, to mentor us via zoom every Thursday morning for three months.
Every week our knowledge rose to new heights. Like men dying of thirst finally able to drink, we are very thankful.
Giving back plays a huge role in my art, doing charity drive paintings, helping other inmates create gifts for their families, keeping them connected to loved ones. I teach an inmate-run art class, the therapeutic benefits of art repeatedly unfold before my eyes.
I hope to continue using my art to help others fight depression and suicide once my time comes one day to rejoin the community.
Being an artist, I hope to use my calling to bring light into the world from the darkness I have created and must now rise from. To create beauty from nothing is a blessing from god.