The Mark of the Hand. Aubrey Williams

DirectorImruh Caesar
One line synopsisThe life and work of Guyana-born painter, Aubrey Williams (1926-1990), a founder member of the Caribbean Artists Movement.

Guyana landscape. Aubrey Williams looking at colour slides. His VO says "I don’t trust labels. Labels change. The meanings change. But the act of painting… is ‘timehri’ [the Arawak word for art, meaning] ‘the mark of the hand of man’." Images from Williams’s paintings. Paintings of tropical birds. Williams’s work in gallery. Williams talking about his background and becoming a full-time painter. His studio. Photograph of him as young man. Paintings. Photograph from his first one-man exhibition (1958). Williams packing a bag and en route for Guyana. Commentary gives biographical and career details, explaining his connection with pre-Columbian art, an interest that started when he was an agricultural officer living with the Warrau. Williams VO talking about his life in Hossororo. Timehri International Airport [now Cheddi Jagan International Airport] and Williams’s 1970 mural. Williams with the team engaged to help restore the mural. Williams VO. Repainting some of the faded colours. Willliams VO talking about the Guyanese pre-Columbian iconography in the mural, using totemic emblems from the Carib, the Warrau and the Arawak groupsArawak boy singing. Williams talking about his racial heritage and about racism against the Amerindians who are now gaining equal standing with the rest of the population. Night and the Olmec (1983). Boy singing. Other paintings; Williams VO talking about painting from a young age, his father’s attitude to painting, and going to agricultural classes. Williams at the sugar factory at La Bon Intention where he worked first. Commentary says that, at this time, he came under the influence of E. R. Burrowes, founder of the Working People’s Art Group. Williams talking about his artistic activities while he worked at the factory. Crushing sugar cane for juice. Street scenes. Williams working on the mural. His VO saying that being an artist means breaking rules. Painting. Williams working by moon- and floodlight. His VO saying that he was only ever interested in pre-Columbia art and in synthesising the images with those of the modern world. He describes himself as a loner. People talking to Williams. He signs the mural. Williams reminding a man how much he hates the colour green. The restored mural. Williams being presented by an award by the Guyanese president. Street scenes in Georgetown. Williams VO saying he prefers the jungle. Williams flying to Hossororo. Mabaruma airport. Williams sharing a drink. Travelling by boat through jungle. Painting interspersed with jungle scenes. Williams talks about having a reverence and respect for the local environment. River. Jungle. Williams taking photographs. Describes how the countryside used to be. Explains the meaning of the name Hossororo ("noisy water"). Says that the agricultural site they used to work has been allowed to disappear. Paintings of birds. Williams walking around and taking photographs. Talks to local people. River. Sunset. Williams doesn’t want to talk about the events of the day and wonders if he should have come back after forty years away. He says his exile to this region was traumatic but turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Paintings. Williams talks about being a city-dweller in the jungle. It took him two years to feel comfortable and to be accepted by the Warrau. He also came to understand how and what he would paint. Painting. Talks abut early childhood in Georgetown. VO market scenes. Talks about meeting first Amerindian woman who explained symbolism to him. Paintings.Williams talking about reactions to his work and his feelings about them. Paintings. Thinks it’s becoming more difficult to produce the results he wants. Jungle. Kaieteur Falls. Shostakovich 3rd Symphony, Opus 20 (1981) and other paintings in the series seen in gallery. Commentary says western critics consider him part of western modern art and don’t see the Guyana and pre-Columbian influences on his work. The exception is London-based critic Guy Brett . Brett’s VO over painting. Williams answers Brett’s questions about the relation between Shostakovich and pre-Columbia imagery. Painting. Williams VO on Shostakovich’s music. Williams and Brett. The same painting. Williams said that for the first time, he "could feel colour". Waterfall. Paintings. Williams says that his intuitions about Shostakovish’s universality were validated when he came to Europe. Painting. Williams talking about isolation. Details of several paintings. Williams believes he’s still lost and complicated and finding out more about his work, wants to work more than ever, and is ever more interested in pre-Columbian artefacts. He thinks the world is not keeping up with its own technology. Painting; Williams VO. Credits.

Production companyKuumba
Running time51 minutes
Full credits

Commentary Norman Beaton;
Camera Chris Cox;
Assistant Camera Kelvin Richards,
Ian Watts;
Sound Albert Bailey,
Keith Desmond,
John Lunsden;
Editor Stuart de Jong;
Assistant Editor Steve Garvey;
Production Assistants Gloria Lowe,
Paula Spencer;
Electrician Jim McBride;
Art Director Corinna MacNeice;
Stills David Rowan;
Graphics Siân Thomas;
Rostrum Camera Begonia Tamarit,
John Leatherbarrow;
Dubbing Mixer Rod Guest.
With thanks to Eve Williams,
Maridowa Williams,
Denis Bowen Insurance Brokers (Guyana) Ltd.,
The Government and people of the Republic of Guyana,
Executive Producer Rodney Wilson;
Producer Henry Martin;
Director Imruh Bakari Caesar.
A Kuumba Production.
Arts Council of Great Britain
© 1986.

Film segmentThe Mark of the Hand. Aubrey Williams - ACE164.2
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The Mark of the Hand. Aubrey Williams - ACE164.6
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