Like most persons coming out of secondary school, Wilkie George had a very limited perception of what fine art entailed. He never imagined the range of courses he would be exposed to at the E.R. Burrowes School of Art and the wealth of knowledge he stood to gain in the process. This perception, which reflects less on him as an individual but rather more on how art is being taught at the secondary level, resulted in a kind of shock as he prepared himself to work through the school’s two-year certificate program.
“I did cartoon drawings at the primary level. Then at the secondary level, I learned a bit more about art. I did art from form three and continued until I found an art teacher in form four where I learned the basics. Although I did art for CXC I didn’t know about the art school. It was my art teacher, Godfrey Alexander, who told me that there’s an art school in Georgetown,” George said.
“My experience at the art school was great! I learned a lot about art. At first, I thought art was about just drawing and graphics alone but when I got to the art school I did everything including drawing, graphics, photography, sculpture, leather, basic design, textiles, painting, colour theory and more. It was a great experience doing all of those subjects because I learned a lot.”
George, who chose to specialise in the areas of sculpture and leather, recalled making small objects as a young boy, completely unaware that he was in fact sculpting. This natural inclination to carve and his deep love for the Rupununi inspired him to combine the two in a way that not only complement each other but also encourage viewers to observe the materials and techniques used to make the objects while recognising the beauty of our local interior landscape that influenced the production of those sculptural pieces.
The decision to develop this particular body of work under a nature theme was driven by his desire to showcase the beauty of the Rupununi, which according to him, more persons are discovering and rediscovering in some cases. With the boom in tour packages making those interior locations more accessible to tourists, George explained that there has been a significant increase in visitors to the area, with most persons going to fish or look for crabs etc. He admitted that although he too is an avid hunter and fisher, those activities were curtailed whenever he was in town, as he didn’t have access to any areas that allowed such. Nevertheless, he remained hopeful that they would resume once he returned home.
As in the case of most of his art school colleagues, George had a few words of wisdom to share with persons considering joining the art school.
“I would say to keep focused. Art seems easy but it’s not easy. It’s a lot of time, patience and money. Many students come to the art school and don’t make it. But it’s about trying again and not giving up. If you do something and it’s not good, do it over. That’s what I learned.”
When asked about his plans for the future he admitted that his first impulse is to go back to the Rupununi to continue producing art and various craft items. With the knowledge he gained during the two years spent training as an art professional, he hopes to start teaching art at the secondary level in the Rupununi. At the core of his practice is the desire to share with others all of the lessons he would have learned and would have been fortunate enough to overcome along his creative journey.
George and 10 others recently completed the Certificate Programme while three students completed the school’s Diploma Programme. The end of their studies was marked by an exhibition of their works at the Umana Yana Benab back in August of this year.
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on October 22, 2017. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: