“Entering this room from the uncertainty of the previous one is an emotional and physical shock… here is an entirely coherent, strong and visceral presentation of painting from somebody right at the beginning of their journey. The progression from the dense, sensual attack of the Hampstead Mural, (which has more resonance with European painting, Davie and Denny, than with Pollock), to the long liquid paintings that followed, was realised between 1957 and 1959; by any standards it is an immense achievement. With these, Ayres could hold her own among contemporary works by Frankenthaler and Mitchell.” Nick Moore on Gillian Ayres August 17, 2017.
Yep – these works by Gillian Ayres are classic Late Modern painting. They are also undeniably strong, powerful and magnificent. I came across the pictures on the internet looking for Brit post war abstraction, and immediately thought, “Hold on Sonny Jim… what is this?!” I had sort of worked backwards going through her masterly Matisse/Picasso influenced late work (not really my thing), and gradually came onto these. These aren’t mannered abstraction, but they also aren’t “pure”. The color, space and movement is Baroque in feeling and attitude. She’s also taken the lessons of Tachisme and AbEx / Color Field painting and managed to keep the space open and alive unlike so many of the 2nd generation painters. I have absolutely no idea why this work and this artist aren’t better known here in the US.
“‘I hated their dominance, and the way they taught. You’d do a Braque-style drawing, and they’d come up and have a row with you because it wasn’t what they did. You were always waiting for the row. You have to be careful with teachers: they might be in the business of making an audience for themselves. In the 1950s and 1960s, people were always attacking you for what you did if you were, as I was, working in abstraction. Your nerves used to go, you seized up with all this talk that you were a charlatan, that even a child could do it. One hated having to be defensive. No wonder I was a complete sucker for people who genuinely liked my work, even if it was just the gas man.’” Gillian Ayers in conversation with Rachel Cooke, July 13, 2015.