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Portrait of the Artist: Aubrey Williams

Article relating to an individual, 1959
Published by: Art News and Review
Year published: 1959
Number of pages: 1

image of Portrait of the Artist: Aubrey Williams

Substantial feature on Aubrey Williams, written by Jan Carew, for the London-based publication Art News and Review, Saturday, August 15th, 1959, Vol. XI No. 15, page 3. A portrait of a youthful Williams, (aged around 33) was prominently featured (the photograph was uncredited). A painting by Williams appeared alongside the portrait, though its only credit was ‘New Vision Centre.’ Carew’s text began,

“It is remarkable that in one generation, British Guiana a forgotten province in the north of South America should have produced two artists of the calibre of Denis Williams and Aubrey Williams (the two are not related). But where Denis Williams started out painting in the stream of Latin American expressionism and abandoned this to become a cerebral painter, Aubrey, his namesake is striking out on more original and more certain paths.Denis, in danger of losing himself in London went to Africa to rediscover roots. But can one find roots in this age of the uprooted? Only those who break away from the parochial moorings get some consciousness of the age in which we live, the terror, the fears, the shape and the size and the colours of the fantastic realities around us.

Thirty-three year old Aubrey Williams is a Guianese. Racially he is a mixture of South American Indian (Carib) and Negro. Hs dark, flat face, narrow eyes and wide cheek bones give the same impression of reined in vitality that one gets looking at the stone heads outside an Aztec temple. He is immensely strong with thick arms and wide shoulders and he walks with a kind of carefree jauntiness. The nervous energy pent up inside him often explodes in laughter. He is an articulate man but there are times when he becomes impatient with words and uses his hands, his shoulders, his whole body to emphasise what he is saying.”

This was a fascinating feature, which offered a substantial appraisal of Williams, his life, and his art. The text now reads, in part at least, as quite dated and archaic, for example, “Williams is not a wild boy from the Amazon.” Even so, much of the text is invaluable, such as “Williams paints in the abstract medium and he does this without effort, the images that populate his mind are too numerous and complex to be interpreted in any other way. The Indians say that when the green skin of the living world is peeled off then the earth becomes a coffin for the dead. And in Williams’ mind are the varied patterns and shapes of this living world: superimposed on these are the new images of science, shapes under a microscope, pictures of nebulae in popular magazines, the bright blurrs of trick photography and the torment of an uprooted man searching for an image of himself and of his people. [Williams] describes himself as: “an envelope of life with a British Guiana address one of the millions with dark faces emerging in the twentieth century.”

Related people

»  Jan Carew

Born, 1920 in British Guiana. Died, 2012

»  Aubrey Williams

Born, 1926 in Georgetown, Guyana. Died, 1990