Exhibition of works by Aubrey Williams, including works previously unseen starts at the October Gallery 12th September. Born in Guyana, in 1926, Aubrey Williams’ life and art cannot be defined to one location. This new exhibition will explore how Williams’ oeuvre not only crosses borders between abstract and figurative modes but also between physical and cultural geographies.
Arriving in London in 1952, Williams became aware of American Abstract Impressionism following two MOMA exhibitions at the Tate, in 1956 and in 1959. Works by artists such as Pollock, Gorky and Rothko excited Williams. Their explorations of technique, colour and scale were all aspects that he absorbed into his own richly allusive abstractions.
The 1950s to the1980s was a period of great activity for the artist. Williams’ work was shown in group and solo exhibitions both in London and abroad.
The early 1980s witnessed Williams’ tour de force: two astonishing series of large-scale paintings. During this period, Williams worked on around thirty paintings expressing his passionate encounter with the music of Dimitri Shostakovich. In the other series, entitled Olmec-Maya (1981-1984), Williams created some thirty works which drew on his deep knowledge of historic Mesoamerican cultures, which he merged with abstraction and figuration.
Williams’ work highlights how the artist believed the avant-garde existed beyond cultural borders. The interplay between abstract painting and rich figurations portrays how, for Williams, art need not belong to one genre. The multiplicity of Williams’ work demands complex interpretations, perhaps why, during his lifetime, he left critics confounded.
Exhibiting Williams’ work in the 21st century awakens a new assessment of British art history and challenges the canon. During his lifetime, the British establishment seemingly never allowed artists, including Williams, to move beyond the label of a Caribbean artist. Today, Williams’ work still resists classification. Williams’ Modernist oeuvre is being reborn into a world now ready for his art.