A trip down memory lane with Hew Locke

Hew Locke. Photo by Indra Khanna

Although Hew Locke left the shores of Guyana quite some time before becoming a practicing artist, he does have quite a few vivid childhood memories about the art scene between the late 1960s and mid 1970s. Even in his youth he was very aware of the tight knit sense of community between the artists and writers.

Locke was born the eldest son to two esteemed artists (Donald Locke and Leila Chaplin) and grew up among the pioneers of several art movements at the time. In fact his childhood home was often the informal center for discussions about art and art-related topics that piqued the interest of some of Guyana’s most outstanding visual artists.

He remembers both of his parents making art at his childhood home just as distinctly as he remembers his father and Frank Bowling engaging in heated art debates in the same home. He remembers one evening especially when his father, John Agard, Marc Matthews, Ron Savory, Kamal Matthews and Wordsworth McAndrew were having discussions together.

As a child he recalls visiting several exhibitions at the National Park location of the National Collection, and even going to Plaisance with his father to see Dudley Charles in his studio, where they viewed Charles’ “Old House” painting.

Locke recalls Stanley Greaves working at the back of the Queen’s College art room on his seminal paintings “Peanut Seller” and “Old Time String Band, 1977.” He also recalls the Greaves being commissioned by the Guyana Bank for Trade & Industry (GBTI) on Water Street to paint and affix several large-scale paintings that would eventually be the mural on the interior dome of the building (all between 1973 and 1974).

He spoke of painting trips that his mother and Judy Drayton (another prolific painter of the time) would take to various creeks across Guyana, one such being Red Water Creek. Whenever his mother was sketching buildings around Georgetown, he recalled, she would often do so sitting in her car so she wouldn't be bothered or have to answer questions from passers by.

Locke also remembers his mother working on the mosaic for the floor of the swimming pool at Castellani House, for the then Prime Minister LFS Burnham. He would spend many nights over several months sleeping on site, keeping an eye on the temperatures of the kiln located next to the pool, all while revising for his exams.

Drawing upon his memory of that project Locke remarked, “Absurdly, the [then Prime Minister] wanted it to be made of entirely local materials including clay and glazes, even though these were not always really suitable, and caused endless stress and trouble and lots of wastage.”

Hew Locke was born in Edinburgh, UK in 1959 and lived in Georgetown, Guyana from 1966 to 1980. In 2000 he won the Paul Hamlyn Award and the East International Award. He has exhibited his work worldwide and is represented in many collections including the Government Art Collection; the Pérez Art Museum Miami; the Tate Gallery; the Arts Council of England; the National Trust; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Arnold Lehman collection; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; the RSID Museum, Rhode Island; the New Art Gallery Walsall; the Victoria & Albert Museum; the Imperial War Museum; the British Museum; and the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. He lives and works in London and is married to the curator Indra Khanna.

This article was first published in the 50th Independence Anniversary supplement of the Guyana Chronicle on May 25, 2016. Click on the link to be redirected to the E-paper:


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