|© Gillian Ayres. Courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery, London.|
ALAN CRISTEA GALLERY
In the 1960s, prompted by the Tate, Gillian Ayres made a list of items that intrigued her as a painter. They included: art history, puddings and marine life-forms, the artist Crivelli, jelly moulds, Mrs Beeton’s ice cream and cakes, finials and crockets, lichens and seaweeds, shells, Uccello hats and plumed helmets...’
Gillian Ayres, is the first - possibly the greatest - English female abstract artist, who was awarded the CBE (Companion of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List this year, around the time she celebrated her 80th birthday.
In the 1970s, when Gillian Ayres was a senior lecturer at St Martin’s School of Art in London, other members of staff are reputed to have warned the students, 'Don’t listen to her, she’ll make you want to paint.’ It was a decade when the desire to produce conceptual art was intoxicating, pumping energy into art schools. But Ayres carried on painting her distinctive pictures, which is what she has done for the past 60 years.
I would like to show you an image of her wonderful Distillation, owned by the Tate, painted by the young Gillian in 1957, said to be among the most powerful and lyrical abstract paintings ever produced by a British artist. But I don’t have copyright permission. Do please look it up. It was painted partly in Ripolin household enamel paint and partly in artist's oil colour. The artist applied the paint with rags and brushes, having poured it from a can or squirted it from the tube. Inspired by Jackson Pollock, she worked with the painting flat on the floor. Using turps to keep the surface free-flowing, she was free to work with subtlety and speed. Her principal concerns at this time were pictorial space, materials and colour, and the balancing of different elements 'so that nothing is more important than anything else. One was into the idea of no composition’.
If it's for her vibrant heavily worked canvases that she is best known, she’s is also a dedicated printmaker. Mirabell is a woodcut on Japanese Unryu-shi paper, and comes from a new series of woodcuts, her first foray into this medium. It will form part of her solo exhibition of new paintings and works on paper to be held by the Alan Cristea Galleries in October 2012, a show which will be going on to the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, the Turnquicke in Wigan, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.
The broadcaster and author Andrew Marr recently described her as 'probably the finest abstract painter alive in Britain’. He added, 'Ayres has always been obsessively concerned with painting – the unfolding of a self-contained logic, whirling chaos held just in check.’