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ARTISTS

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Aubrey Williams

Aubrey Williams was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1926, and began painting and drawing from the age of five. He joined the Working People’s Art Class whilst still at school, studying under E. R. Burrowes, a man he credited as ‘opening the Guyanese eyes to art’. A trained agronomist, his work took him to the north-west rainforest of Guyana, where he lived for two years amongst the indigenous Warrau people, a period which proved one of the most formative of his life and where, he said, “I started to understand what art really is”.

By 1952, when he returned to Georgetown at the age of twenty-six, Guyana was nearing the end of its time as a British colony and Williams sailed to London, initially on six months paid leave, to become a painter and began life drawing at St Martins School of Art. As a painter with detailed knowledge of flora and fauna, with personal experience of momentous political change, and with a growing interest in pre-Columbian cultures, he arrived in London with a unique visual and intellectual vocabulary. Over the following years he took the opportunity to travel extensively around Europe, returning to London and to opportunities to exhibit his work. He was also part of the spectacular explosion of creativity, optimism and productivity generated by the influx of Caribbean writers, artists and intellectuals to London at the time. This cultural foment was exemplified in the Caribbean Artists Movement, founded in 1966 by Kamau Brathwaite, poet and historian, John La Rose, poet and activist, and Andrew Salkey, novelist and journalist. Aubrey Williams was a founder member and participated fully in CAM’s activities, as did Ronald Moody, sculptor. Within this mutually supportive network, Williams found, and contributed to, an enriching framework of ideas and discussion, including debates on visual sources, strategies for change, and the stifling effects of being categorised as either a quintessentially Caribbean or British artist.

From the early 1960s, Williams exhibited widely, winning awards and garnering high acclaim from a London art circuit enchanted by what Guy Brett calls “the heady interface between artistic innovation and trans-nationalism” . When he had arrived, London was a city with few apparent signs of black presence, and as such, the visibility of Williams’ work represented one of the first challenges to the white dominance in the British art establishment. Over the years that followed however, Williams found himself increasingly confronted by ‘institutional indifference’, his work framed and discussed solely in terms of ‘otherness’.

Williams’ paintings have always resisted classification, evolving through many distinct phases over the course of his career. From immaculately accomplished depictions of birds, to figurations, to explosive, vibrant abstracts, Williams drew influence from abstract expressionism, from Olmec, Maya, and Warrau imagery, from science fiction, from the symphonies and quartets of Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, and from artists such as Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Diego Rivera, Yves Klein and Rufino Tamayo.

Exhibitions

Aubrey Williams 'Major Works'
Aubrey Williams 'Now and Coming Time'
Aubrey Williams 'Atlantic Fire' at Walker Art Galley, Liverpool
Untitled by Aubrey Williams
Sun Hieroglyph
(Olmec Maya series)

Now and Coming Time II
(Olmec Maya series)

Bonampak II
(Omec Maya series)

Carib Ritual IV

Dawn & Evening Star
(Olmec Maya series)

Quetzalcoatl III
(Olmec Maya series)

Quetzalcoatl in Eclipse

Now and Coming Time II

Maya Confrontation
(Olmec Maya series)

Now and Coming Time III
(Olmec Maya series)

Hymn to the Sun IV
(Olmec Maya series)
RESERVED

Symphony No. 14, Opus 135
(Shostakovich series)

Untitled

Hymn to the Sun V
Untitled by Aubrey Williams
Symphony No. 10, Opus 93
(Shostakovich series)

Maya X
Untitled by Aubrey Williams
Untitled

Cenote IV
(Olmec Maya series)

Untitled

Untitled

Aftermath IV

Untitled

Untitled

Abstract

Quetzal

Limpkin (Aramus Guarauna)

Burrowing Owl (Speotyto Cunicularia)

Tick Bird

Common Great Comorant (Phlacrocorax Auritus)

Barn Owl

Andean Condor (Vultur Gryphus)
 


Aubrey Williams Biography

b. Georgetown, Guyana, 1926.

Exhibitions

(G = Group shows)
1954  Archer Gallery, London, UK (G)
1958/59/60   New Vision Centre Gallery, London, UK
1958   Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris, France (G)
1959   St Catherine’s College, Oxford, UK
1960   David Jones’ Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia (G)
    Hessenhuis, Antwerp, Belgium (G)
    Walkers Gallery, London, UK (G)
    Woodstock Gallery, London, UK (G)
    Portal Gallery, London, UK (G)
    Univision Royal Court Grill, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK (G)
    Grabowski Gallery, London, UK (G)
1961   Richmond Hill Gallery, Richmond, UK
    Galleria Pater, Milan, Italy
    New Vision Centre Gallery, London, UK (G)
    Galerie Walcheturm, Zürich, Switzerland (G)
1961/62/63/65   Commonwealth Institute Art Gallery, London, UK (G)
1962   National College of Art, Dublin, Ireland (G)
1963   Grabowski Gallery, London, UK
    Gallery 60, Colchester, UK
    Ritchie Hendricks Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
1964   Forum Galleries, Bristol, UK
    Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK (G)
1965   Arts Council, Karachi, Pakistan (G
    Arts Centre, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK (G)
    Commonwealth Arts Festival, Royal Academy of Art, London, UK (G)
    University of Glasgow & Commonwealth Arts Festival, Glasgow, Scotland (G)
1966-70   Nicholas Treadwell Gallery, London, UK (G)
1966   The Arun Art Centre, Arundel, Sussex, UK (G)
1967   Van Mildert College, Durham University, Durham, UK
    Expo ’67, Montreal, Canada (G)
    São Paulo Biennale (XI), Brazil (G)
    Brighton Festival of Arts, Sussex, UK (G)
    Theatre Royal, Stratford, UK (G)
1967/68   University of Kent, Canterbury, UK (G)
1968   London School of Economics, London, UK (G)
    City Art Gallery, Bristol UK (G)
    West Indian Students Centre, London UK (G)
    House of Commons, London, UK (G)
1969   Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, UK
1970   John Peartree Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
    Guyana Museum, Georgetown, Guyana (G
1971   Camden Arts Centre, London, UK
1971/73/74   Commonwealth Institute Art Gallery, London, UK (G)
1972   Illinois Centre, Chicago, USA
    Critchlow Labour College, Carifesta ’72, Georgetown, Guyana
1973   Nicholas Treadwell Gallery, London, UK
1973/74   Little Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
1974   The Warehouse, Kingston, Jamaica
1975/76   Olympia International Arts Centre, Jamaica (G)
1975-77   Gallery Barrington, Kingston, Jamaica
1977   Festac‘– Festival of the Arts, Lagos, Nigeria (G)
    Jamaica House, Kingston, Jamaica (G)
1977/81   Commonwealth Institute, London, UK
1982/84   Westbourne Gallery, London, UK (G)
1984   October Gallery, London, UK
    Paintings on the music of Dmitri Shostakovich, Royal Festival Hall, London, UK
1985   The Olmec-Maya & Now, Commonwealth Institute Art Gallery, London, UK
    Goldsmith College Gallery, London, UK
    Cosmos, Gallery Barrington, Kingston, Jamaica
    GLC Brixton Recreation Centre, London, UK (G)
    Contemporary Arts Centre, Kingston, Jamaica
1986   Camden Arts Centre, London, UK (G)
    Leicestershire Museum & Art Gallery, Northampton, UK (G)
1986/87/88   October Gallery, London, UK
1987   National Gallery (touring exhibition), Guyana
    National Gallery (touring exhibition), Guyana
1988   Contemporary Arts Centre, Kingston, Jamaica
    Shibuya Tokyo Plaza, Tokyo, Japan
1989-90   The Other Story’ – Hayward Gallery, London, UK (G)
1989   De Graaf Fine Art, Chicago USA
    October Gallery, London, UK
1990   Aubrey Williams Celebration, Commonwealth Institute, London, UK
    A Tribute to Aubrey Williams, Guyana Museum, Georgetown, Guyana
    A Tribute to Aubrey Williams, Contemporary Art Centre, Kingston, Jamaica
1992   Endangered Birds, Sotheran’s Antiquarian Books, London, UK
    Belgrave Gallery, London, UK (G)
1995-96   Cosmos Series, October Gallery, London, UK
1995   Islington Arts Factory, London, UK (G)
1996   Castellani House, Georgetown, Guyana
1996-97   Harlem & Caribbean Cultural Center, New York, USA
1998   Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK
2002   October Gallery, London, UK
2004   October Gallery, London, UK
2006   October Gallery, London, UK
2007   Goodison Room, Tate Britain, London, UK
2008   Rotunda Space, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
2010   Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK
    October Gallery, London, UK

Important Purchases, Work in Important Collections

Arts Council of Great Britain, UK
Bank of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica
Booker McConnell Plc, London, UK
British Broadcasting Corporation, London UK
Castellani House, National Collection of Guyana, Georgetown, Guyana
Church House, Kingston, Jamaica
Commonwealth Institute, London, UK
Contemporary Arts Centre, Kingston, Jamaica
Eliot and Rutherford Colleges, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
Everand Read Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
Guyana House of Assembly, Georgetown, Guyana
Jamaica House, Jamaica
National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica
Natural History Museum, London, UK
Marlborough House, London, UK
October Gallery, London, UK
Olympia International Art Centre (A D Scott – collector), Kingston, Jamaica
Rice Marketing Board of Guyana, Georgetown, Guyana
Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, UK
Royal Festival Hall, London, UK
St Catherine’s College, Oxford, UK
Tate Gallery, London, UK
Tuesday Magazine (boardroom), Chicago, USA
University of the West Indies, Mary Secole Hall Kingston, Jamaica
University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
University of York, York, UK
Van Mildert College, Durham University, Durham, UK
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK
York City Art Gallery, York, UK

Honours

1970    The Golden Arrow of Achievement, Guyana
1980   The Cross of Merit of St. Anthony of the Desert
1986    The Cacique’s Crown of Honour, Guyana

Awards/Prizes

1964    First Commonwealth Biennale of Abstract Art
1964    Commonwealth Prize for Painting, London, UK
1979   Real Aula Mallorquesa seu Esquela Miramar
1980   Acadamia Italia delle Arti e del Lavoro, (Nomination as“Academic of Italy with Gold Medal”)

Murals and Commissions

1961    Heraldry at York’ – City of York Art Gallery (Commission)
1970   mural - ‘Timehri’, (then) Timehri Airport, Georgetown, Guyana (Commission)
1976   mural - Olympia International Art Centre, Kingston, Jamaica (Commission)
    mural - African Methodist Episcopal Church of Christ Our Redeemer, Kingston, Jamaica
    mural - School of Hope, Kingston, Jamaica (Commission)
    mural - Guyana High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (Commission)
1978   mural - ‘Coral Reef’ – (private house), Wiltshire, UK (Commission)
    University of Dalhousie, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (Commission)
1980   portrait – His Serene Excellency, Baron Bradford of Kani, London, UK (Commission)

Important Gifts

1960    'Revolt’ – Castellani House, Guyana
1966   ‘Apotheosis of Rice’ – Rice Marketing Board of Guyana
1971   ‘Guyana Myths’ – Castellani House, Guyana
1982   Shostakovich Symphony No 6 – Milton Keynes General Hospital, Milton Keynes, UK

Film

1986    The Mark of the Hand, directed by Imruh Bakari.  Colour, 16mm, 52 mins, 25fps. 
London: Arts Council/Kuumba Productions.
     
    Works also featured in films, television and still photography
     


   
October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3AL Tel: + 44 (0)20 7242 7367 Fax: + 44 (0)20 7405 1851