NOOSA - Georgina Beier (1938-2021), called the ‘founding mother’ of contemporary art in Papua New Guinea, died in Sydney last Sunday aged 82.
Her husband, Ulli Beier (1922–2011), was a German editor, writer and scholar who pioneered the development of literature in Nigeria and Papua New Guinea.
Born in London, Georgina enrolled in the Kingston Art School aged 16, however dropped out after 15 months, later saying she felt the academic atmosphere could impede her development as an artist.
In 1959 she migrated to Zaria in northern Nigeria where she met Ulli, becoming his second wife. In 1963, they moved to Osogbo, a city in south-west Nigeria, a place she loved and to which she returned many times during her life.
Following the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war in 1966, the couple relocated to the just established University of Papua New Guinea.
Georgina’s broad oeuvre covered drawing, murals, sculptures, graphic art, textiles and theatre design brought her international acclaim and her works feature in some of the world’s largest private art collections.
In both Nigeria and PNG, she was a major catalyst for arts movements and was skilful in identifying and developing new talent. In a number of cases Georgina’s mentoring led to an artist receiving international recognition.
Georgina’s diversity as an artist and a commitment to mentoring others led her to create the studio space where painter and sculptor, Mathias Kauage OBE, artist Timothy Akis and more than 20 others artists began their careers.
Amongst other projects she established the silk screen textile printing industry in PNG, formed the nucleus of the National Art School, introduced painting to psychiatric patients at Laloki Hospital and with Timothy Akis established the National Art Prize
Over the years, Georgina and Ulli Beier lived in Papua New Guinea, Australia, India, Nigeria and Germany.
Wherever she went, Georgina maintained her own prolific output of sculptures, textiles, lithographs, furniture design, murals and mosaics, contributed to the development of local artists, and illustrations publications produced or edited by Ulli.
She held more than 30 single-show exhibitions around the world and participated in 28 group exhibitions including at the Tate Modern Gallery in London and the Museum of Modern Art in Australia.
Georgina and Ulli donated their papers to the National Library of Australia in 2008
Amongst much valuable material, they include transcriptions of her tape recorded conversations with Kauage and other PNG artists, and copies of publications she illustrated including Words of Paradise: Poetry of Papua New Guinea and When the Moon was Big, and Other Legends from New Guinea.