Aubrey Williams

A transatlantic life

(1926 - 1990)

Aubrey Williams was born and grew up in Georgetown, Guyana. He began drawing at a very young age, learning formal painting skills at the Working People's Art Group. After leaving school, he qualified as an Agricultural Field Officer and was posted to the remote forests of the Guyanese interior in 1947.

Here, living amongst the Warrau people, he developed his interest in indigenous and ancient Central and South American cultures. By 1952, Williams had decided to become a professional painter and he came to live and work in London. He exhibited extensively in England and Europe from the late 1950s. He won the only prize at the First Commonwealth Biennale of Abstract Art in 1963 and the Commonwealth Painting Prize
in 1965.

From 1970 Williams also spent periods working in studios in Jamaica and Florida, returning to Guyana occasionally to take active part in events like the 1972 Carifesta festival. Williams was an early member of the London-based Caribbean Artists Movement (1966-72). The Movement supported the recognition and development of Caribbean literature and creative arts independent of European traditions.

During a prolific period in the 1970s and early 1980s he produced the Shostakovich series of 30 large-scale abstract paintings. In the Olmec Maya series of the 1980s Williams combined abstraction with recognisable figures and icons based on the themes that had in fact always driven him.

Williams' global concerns and innovative style, as well as the relevance of his cultural and environmental themes, ensure that his works have an ongoing impact that still affects us today.