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Aubrey Williams: A Painter in the Aftermath of Painting

Article relating to an individual, 2009
Published by: Wasafiri
Year published: 2009
Number of pages: 15

image of Aubrey Williams: A Painter in the Aftermath of Painting

Leon Wainwright authoured a number of texts on Aubrey Williams, including an entry on the artist in The Oxford Companion to Black British Culture, edited by David Dabydeen, John Gilmore and Cecily Jones, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 527-528; Aubrey Williams: Atlantic Fire, in the catalogue Aubrey Williams, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 15 January - 11 April 2010, pp. 46 - 55; and this text, Aubrey Williams: A Painter in the Aftermath of Painting, Wasafiri, issue no. 59, Autumn 2009, pp. 65 – 79. Running to some fifteen pages, this was a substantial appraisal of Aubrey Williams, extensively illustrated and footnoted.

The cover of Wasafiri featured a detail of Shostakovich 3rd Symphony Opus 20, 1981, 132 x 203 cm, though the work was not reproduced in the text itself.

In marked contrast to texts about Williams written during his lifetime, posthumous texts on the artist have grown ever more bulky and grandiose. Wainwright’s Aubrey Williams: A Painter in the Aftermath of Painting, was one such example, amongst a number.

Related people

»  Michelangelo Pistoletto

Born, 1933 in Italy

»  Aubrey Williams

Born, 1926 in Georgetown, Guyana. Died, 1990

Wasafiri - Chris Ofili review

Review relating to an exhibition, 1999
Published by: Wasafiri
Year published: 1999
Number of pages: 2

image of Wasafiri - Chris Ofili review

Chris Ofili, exhibition review in Wasafiri, No. 29 Spring 1999, pp. 79 - 80

In his perceptive and keenly observed review of Ofili’s 1998 touring exhibition (the show for which Ofili secured his 1998 Turner Prize nimination), Richard Dyer briskly reminded (or made the reader aware of) the artist’s rapid rise to success and good fortune: “Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1993 with an MA in painting, Ofili has been courted by the upper echelons of the art establishment – Victoria Miro, Charles Saatchi, the Serpentine Gallery – and starting even while still at college he was a prize winner in the Whitworth Young Contemporaries, an exhibitor in the BP Portrait award and later in the prestigious John Moores Liverpool Exhibition.”

Dyer concluded his review as follows, “Perhaps if [Ofili] had not – and it has to be said, rather cleverly – grafted the whole shaky edifice of ‘racial identity’ onto his fundamentally formalist paintings we may never have seen his work in a major public gallery, and he certainly would not have won the Turner Prize; not because of the lack of any intrinsic quality in the paintings, but because at present the art establishment is only willing to recognise the work of black and Asian artists in Britain if it fulfils the dual and surprisingly non-contradictory demands of what can only be described as the cultural neo-colonialism of a post-socialist, New Labour Britain and the ‘ethnically authentic’ and identity-centred agenda of multicultural arts funding and patronage.”

This was one of an enormous amount of press coverage that Ofili secured, around the time of his Turner Prize nomination, and in the days and months following his victory. Ofili was the first Black British artist to win the Turner Prize, though much of the press coverage drew little or no attention to this, preferring to focus on other aspects of the artist’s life and practice. Monochrome small reproductions of two Ofili paintings accompanied the review by Dyer. A substantial reproduction of an Ofili painting - a detail - adorned the cover of this issue of Wasafiri. It was She, 1997, Acrylic, oil, resin, paper collage, glitter, map pins and elephant dung on canvas, 8 x 6 ft.

Related people

»  Chris Ofili

Born, 1968 in Manchester, UK

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Serpentine Gallery

London, United Kingdom

»  Southampton City Art Gallery

Southampton, United Kingdom

»  Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester

Manchester, United Kingdom

Aubrey Williams review - Wasafiri

Review relating to an exhibition, 1998
Published by: Wasafiri
Year published: 1998
Number of pages: 4

image of Aubrey Williams review - Wasafiri

Substantial review of Aubrey Williams major exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1998. The review  appeared in Wasafiri, No. 28 Autumn 1998, pp. 54 - 57. The review was sparsely illustrated, with only one monochrome reproduction of a Williams painting. The same painting, Visual Idea, 1963, oil on canvas, also appeared in colour, on the cover of the issue. The first part of the review is given over to discussing the significance and work of three Guyanese figures, Wilson Harris, Denis Williams, and Aubrey Williams himself. Denis Williams had only recently passed away. Having contributed a text to the catalogue that accompanied this Whitechapel exhibition, it was perhaps fitting for Louis James to draw the reader’s attention to Denis Williams, a man of many parts, who was, amongst other things, an “art historian, painter, novelist, anthropologist, archaeologist…”The review goes on to offer a biographical sketch of Aubrey Williams.

The review goes on to discuss the significance of the publication Guyana Dreaming, and the catalogue that accompanied the Whitechapel exhibition. Ultimately, this is not so much an exhibition review as it is an appraisal of Aubrey Williams’ practice. Towards the end of the text, Louis James argued, “Aubrey’s work is unfashionably ‘Romantic’ in that it sees time most profoundly explored in the timeless, and the human transcendently cosmic. Like Wilson Harris, Aubrey was fascinated by the petrographs found mysteriously carved in the Guyanese interior, whose Amerindian name, ‘timehri’, has been variously interpreted as ‘the hand of God’ and the ‘mark of the hand’.”

Related people

»  Aubrey Williams

Born, 1926 in Georgetown, Guyana. Died, 1990

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Whitechapel Art Gallery

London, United Kingdom

Material Meaning - Wasafiri

Article relating to a publication, 2010
Published by: Wasafiri
Year published: 2010
Number of pages: 9

image of Material Meaning - Wasafiri

Jessica Hemmings, Material Meaning, Wasafiri, Vol. 25, No. 3 September 2010, pp. 38-46.

Perhaps the most successful text that sought to place Yinka Shonibare’s work into the context and company of other artists (all of whom were born in African countries and used textiles – or what could be interpreted as textiles - within their practice) was Material Meaning. Written by Jessica Hemmings and published in an issue of Wasafiri, Material Meaning discussed the work of Shonibare, Nicholas Hlobo, Owusu-Ankomah, Nnenna Okore, and El Anatsui, in considered and convincing tones. Hemmings noted, “The artists all have ties with the vast region of sub-Saharan Africa, to cultures with extensive and discrete textile traditions”

Hemmings went on, “Yinka Shonibare has made the complex history of batik cloth the hallmark of his practice and he is one example of an artist whose use of textiles deserves consideration. But this example is far from isolated: Nicholas Hlobo often makes use of rubber and leather, incorporating stitches with ribbon into two and three-dimensional work; Owusu-Ankomah paints the human form camoflaged by the adinkra symbols of printed textiles; Nnenna Okore’s installations using paper and thread are marked by a distinct ‘textile sensibility’; El Anatusi’s (sic) sculptures made from recycled metal bottle caps suggest giant pieces of strip-woven cloth. The textile may not be the central motivation of these artists’ practices, but consideration of the messages the textile conveys is crucial to a fuller appreciation of the content of their work.”

Shonibare’s work appeared on the cover of the issue (Girl on Flying Machine, 2008), and images of his Woman on Flying Machine, 2008 and Man on Flying Machine, 2008, were reproduced in the text itself. Further to these images of Shonibare’s work,  the article was extensively illustrated by work by all of the other artists, with the exception of El Anatsui.

Images as follows:

Nicholas Hlobo, Ingubo Yesizwe, 2008; Owusu-Ankomah, Afrika Charms, 2008, On my Knees, 2008; Nnenna Okore, Putting Together Things That Fell Apart, 2009.


Related people + view all 6

»  El Anatsui

Born, 1944 in Anyako, Ghana

»  Nicholas Hlobo

Born, 1975 in Johannesburg, South Africa

»  Nnenna Okore

Born, 1975 in Nigeria

»  Owusu-Ankomah

Born, 1956 in Ghana

Related venues

»  Whitechapel Art Gallery

London, United Kingdom

Rasheed Araeen Interview (Wasafiri)

Article relating to an individual, 2008
Published by: Wasafiri
Year published: 2008
Number of pages: 12

image of Rasheed Araeen Interview (Wasafiri)

One of the most substantial texts on the sculptor Rasheed Araeen appeared in Wasafiri, Volume 23, Number 1, Issue 53, spring 2008. The text (on pages 22 - 33) was an interview with Araeen conducted by Richard Dyer. Covering some eight pages, the feature was liberally illustrated with archival images of Araeen’s practice. The front cover of the issue featured an archival photograph of Rasheed Araeen, ‘Paki Bastard’: (Portrait of the Artist as A Black Person). 1977. Live event with slides and sound. First performed at Artists for Democracy. 31 July 1977.

The piece focusses on Araeen’s career as an artist, as well as his work in founding Third Text, well as discussing the artistic, cultural and social contexts in which Araeen worked.

The text was introduced (on page 22) with a biographical summary, as follows:

Rasheed Araeen was born in 1935 in Karachi, Pakistan. Although he first trained as a civil engineer, he later began to work as an artist, first producing figurative work and then abstract painting. Restricted by attitudes to modernity in Pakistan, he moved to England in 1964 after a brief stay in Paris. A year later, he encountered the work of Anthony Caro which was a transformative experience for him and encouraged him to start making his own sculptures. Rather than producing sculpture based on traditional composition or pictorial structures, Araeen argued that ‘symmetrical configuration, rather than composition, should be the basis of a new sculpture’. Consequently, Aareen (sic) became a pioneer of Minimalist sculpture in Britain, although his contribution was largely unrecognised at the time. Aareen (sic) did not discover the New York school of American Minimalism until 1968 when a friend in Paris told him of the work of Sol LeWitt. It was at this time that he also began to devote himself full-time to art. In 1970, Aareen (sic) became increasingly politically active, joining both the Black Panthers (later re-named the Black Workers Movement) and Artists for Democracy. Later in the decade, he explored performance art, concentrating on political issues and identity politics. In 1978 he founded Black Phoenix, a magazine which dealt with radical contemporary art from the ‘Third World’. This was the precursor to Third Text magazine which he launched in 1987 and which is one of the leading academic journals of contemporary art and culture today.”

Within the conversation piece, Araeen is scornful of a number of the artists who have come to dominate the art world’s attention over recent years. The question was put to him that “You founded Third Text… the original subtitle being ‘Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture’. Today the subtitle is ‘Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture’. Could you explain  how this change of intent mirrors the changes in the perception of African, Caribbean and Asian artists in the West? I am thinking of course of the rise of members of the second and third generation such as Chris Ofili, Yinka Shonibare and Isaac Julien and the solidification of the reputation of some members of the first generation such as Anish Kapoor and Frank Bowling (recently elected as a Royal Academician after years of exile in New York where his work was well received).”

In part, Araeen responds with “Frank Bowling did struggle hard to reach this point, but I have no regard for the remaining. They are not important. They are successful like others who are very good at producing commodities for the market, and good luck to them. They are not alone but represent a class of ambition that leads people to join and serve the system, the very system that is now in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them actually end up with OBEs and MBEs and even places in the House of Lords.” Using the majestic plural, or the royal we, Araeen concludes this response with “We have nothing to do with them.”

Related people

»  Rasheed Araeen

Born, 1935 in Karachi, Pakistan

Related venues

»  Whitechapel Art Gallery

London, United Kingdom