Aubrey Williams

1926–1990

Aubrey Williams, ‘Tribal Mark II’ 1961
Tribal Mark II 1961
© The estate of Aubrey Williams
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Biography

Aubrey Williams (8 May 1926 – 17 April 1990) was a Guyanese artist. He was best known for his large, oil-on-canvas paintings, which combine elements of abstract expressionism with forms, images and symbols inspired by the pre-Columbian art of indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Born in Georgetown in British Guiana (now Guyana), Williams began drawing and painting at an early age. He received informal art tutoring from the age of three, and joined the Working Peoples' Art Class at the age of 12. After training as an agronomist he worked as an Agricultural Field Officer for eight years, initially on the sugar plantations of the East Coast and later in the North-West region of the country—an area inhabited primarily by the indigenous Warao people. His time among the Warao had a dramatic impact on his artistic approach, and initiated the complex obsession with pre-Columbian arts and cultures that ran throughout his artistic career.

Williams left Guyana at the height of the Independence Movement in 1952, and moved to the United Kingdom. Following his first exhibition in London in 1954, he became an increasingly significant figure in the post-war British avant-garde art scene, particularly through his association with Denis Bowen's New Vision Centre Gallery. In 1966, he came together with a group of London-based Caribbean artists and intellectuals to found the Caribbean Artists Movement, which served as a dynamic hub of cultural events and activity until its dissolution in 1972. From 1970 onward, Williams worked in studios in Jamaica and Florida as well as the UK; and it was during this period that he produced three of his most well-known series of paintings: Shostakovich, The Olmec Maya and Now and Cosmos.

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Audio

Aubrey Williams study day – Part 2

An audio recording of the Aubrey Williams study day held at Tate Britain
Audio

Aubrey Williams study day – Part 1

An audio recording of the Aubrey Williams study day held at Tate Britain
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