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Founded in 1979, October Gallery, in central London, exhibits innovative, contemporary art from around the world. For over 39 years, October Gallery has pioneered the development of the Transvangarde - the trans-cultural avant-garde.

ARTISTS

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.


Time and the Elements
(Olmec Maya series)

Symphony No. 14, Opus 135
(Shostakovich series)

Night and the Olmec

Hymn to the Sun IV
(Olmec Maya series)

Symphony no. 10, opus 93
(Shostakovich series)

Hymn to the Sun VIB, 1984.

Symphony no. 5, opus 47
(Shostakovich series)

Codex II

Rock and Shadow

Carib Ritual IV

Carib Carnival

Toltec Ritual

Composition X
     




Sun Hieroglyph
(Olmec Maya series)

Untitled

Now and Coming Time II

Aruka Sign

Shostakovich 1st Symphony, Opus 10

Shostakovich 12th Symphony, Opus 112

Shostakovich 15th Symphony, Opus 141

Shostakovich 13th Quartet, Opus 138

Untitled

Shostakovich 1st Quartet, Opus 49

Shostakovich 6th Quartet, Opus 101

Quetzalcoatl Series II

Dawn & Evening Star
(Olmec Maya series)

Untitled

Quetzalcoatl Series IV

Poem

Hymn to the Sun V

Untitled

Carib

Untitled

Maya X

Cenote IV

Untitled

Untitled

Bonampak II

Untitled

Citadel

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Aftermath IV

Untitled

September

Dawn & Evening Star
(Olmec Maya series)
 

Aubrey Williams Biography

b. Georgetown, Guyana, 1926.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2015  Realm of the Sun, October Gallery, London, UK
2014-18   Faculty of English Library, Churchill College, Cambridge, UK
2013   Aubrey Williams: Shostakovich Symphonies and Quartets, Hales Gallery, London, UK
2010   Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK; October Gallery, London, UK
2008   Rotunda Space, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
2007   Goodison Room, Tate Britain, London, UK
2006   October Gallery, London, UK
2004   October Gallery, London, UK
1998   Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK
1996-97   Harlem & Caribbean Cultural Center, New York, USA
1996   Castellani House, Georgetown, Guyana
1995-96   Cosmos Series, October Gallery, London,
1992   Endangered Birds, Henry Sotheran Ltd (fine books & prints), 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
1989   De Graaf Fine Art, Chicago USA
October Gallery, London, UK
1988   Contemporary Arts Centre, Kingston, Jamaica
Shibuya Tokyo Plaza, Tokyo, Japan
1986/87/88   October Gallery, London, UK
1985   The Olmec-Maya & Now, Commonwealth Institute Art Gallery, London, UK
Goldsmith College Gallery, London, UK
Cosmos, Gallery Barrington, Kingston, Jamaica
Contemporary Arts Centre, Kingston, Jamaica
1984   October Gallery, London, UK
Paintings on the music of Dmitri Shostakovich, Royal Festival Hall, London, UK
1981   Commonwealth Institute, London, UK
1976   Gallery Barrington, Kingston, Jamaica
1975   Olympia International Art Centre, Kingston, Jamaica
1974   The Warehouse, Kingston, Jamaica
1973/74   Little Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
1973   1973 Nicholas Treadwell Gallery, London, UK
1972   Illinois Centre, Chicago, USA
Carifesta ’72; Critchlow Labour College, Georgetown, Guyana
1971   Camden Arts Centre, London, UK
1970   John Peartree Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica
1969   Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, UK
1967   Van Mildert College, Durham University, Durham, UK
1965   Commonwealth Institute, London, UK
1964   Forum Galleries, Bristol, UK
1963   Grabowski Gallery, London, UK
Gallery 60, Colchester, UK
Ritchie Hendricks Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
1961   Richmond Hill Gallery, Richmond, UK
Galleria Pater, Milan, Italy
1959   St Catherine’s College, Oxford, UK
1958/59/60   New Vision Centre Gallery, London, UK

Selected Group Exhibitions

2018-19  

Speech: Acts: Refection-Imagination-Repetition, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK

2017   Summertime, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, USA
2016   No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action, 1960-1990, Guildhall Art Gallery, London, UK
Aviary, Transition Gallery, London, UK
2015   Artist and Empire, Tate Britain, London, UK
2014   35 Years of the Transvangarde:Contemporary art from around the planet, October Gallery, London, UK
2012   Masters of the Transvangarde, October Gallery, London, UK
2009   Transvangarde: Leading Contemporary Artists, October Gallery, London, UK
2008   October Gallery Winter Show, October Gallery, London, UK
2005   ‘Intelligence Now!’, October Gallery, London
1996/97   Transforming the Crown: Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, USA
1992   Belgrave Gallery, London, UK
1989-90   The Other Story’ – Hayward Gallery, London, UK
1988   Summer Show, October Gallery, London, UK
1987   From the National Gallery, Guyana; Caracas, Venezuela, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Creation for Liberation, Brixton Village, London, UK
Art ’87, October Gallery, London, UK
1986   Camden Arts Centre, London, UK
Leicestershire Museum & Art Gallery, Northampton, UK
Autumn Equinox, October Gallery, London, UK
1985   GLC Brixton Recreation Centre, London, UK
Contemporary Arts Centre, Kingston, Jamaica
1982/84   Westbourne Gallery, London, UK
19771977   Festac ‘77‘– Festival of the Arts, Lagos, Nigeria
Jamaica House, Kingston, Jamaica
1975/76/77   Gallery Barrington, Kingston, Jamaica
1975/76   Olympia International Arts Centre, Kingston, Jamaica
1971/73/74/77   Commonwealth Institute Art Gallery, London, UK
1970   Guyana Museum, Georgetown, Guyana
1968   London School of Economics, London, UK
City Art Gallery, Bristol UK
West Indian Students Centre, London UK
House of Commons, London, UK
1967/68   University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
1967   Expo ’67, Montreal, Canada
São Paulo Biennale (XI), Brazil
Brighton Festival of Arts, Sussex, UK
Theatre Royal, Stratford, UK
1966   The Arun Art Centre, Arundel, Sussex, UK
1966-70   Nicholas Treadwell Gallery, London, UK
1965   Arts Council, Karachi, Pakistan
Arts Centre, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
Commonwealth Arts Festival, Royal Academy of Art, London, UK
University of Glasgow & Commonwealth Arts Festival, Glasgow, Scotland
1964   Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK
1962   National College of Art, Dublin, Ireland
1961/62/63/65   Commonwealth Institute Art Gallery, London, UK
1961   New Vision Centre Gallery, London, UK
Galerie Walcheturm, Zürich, Switzerland
1960   David Jones’ Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
Hessenhuis, Antwerp, Belgium
Walkers Gallery, London, UK
Woodstock Gallery, London, UK
Portal Gallery, London, UK
Univision Royal Court Grill, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
Grabowski Gallery, London, UK
1958   Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris, France
1954   Archer 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
Perez Miami Museum, Miami, USA
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   Timehri (then), Timehri Airport, Georgetown, Guyana (Commission)
1976   Olympia International Art Centre, Kingston, Jamaica (Commission)
    African Methodist Episcopal Church of Christ Our Redeemer, Kingston, Jamaica
    School of Hope, Kingston, Jamaica (Commission)
    Guyana High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (Commission)
1978   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

2016   Whoever Heard of a Black Artist? Britain’s Hidden Art History, presenter Brenda Emmanus; producer/director Alex Harding; a BBC Studios Film (documentary) for BBC Four, 52 mins.
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