15 February 2012

Gillian Ayres in Bath and on tour

Andrew Lambirth recently expressed his disquiet at David Hockney’s being designated as our Greatest Living Painter following the death of Lucien Freud:
If there must be the title of Greatest Living Painter, then award it to someone who actually uses paint in an inventive and interesting way: to Leon Kossoff, Gillian Ayres or Frank Auerbach. The publicity-hungry Mr Hockney does not deserve it.
Now there is an opportunity to assess Gillian Ayres’ work in the form of a selection of prints (and a small number of paintings) making up a selling show at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, Gillian Ayres RA Paintings and Prints 1986 to 2011. The boldly colourful abstract pieces on show (Song Beneath the Stars, below) are probably too narrow in range to be able to bear out Lambirth’s suggestion, certainly by comparison with those in the Tate’s collection.

Ayres, who was born in London in 1930, has strong links with SW England having taught at the Bath Academy of Art (at Corsham Court) in the 1960s and lived in north Cornwall since 1987. Not long after arriving there she was interviewed by Art Cornwall, and in their film provided some interesting views on her form of Abstract expressionism which introduces representational forms. She collaborated with a local printmakers’ collective, 107 Workshop in Melksham, Wiltshire, to produce the limited editions on sale.

Gillian Ayres RA Paintings and Prints 1986 to 2011 continues at the Victoria Art Gallery until 21 March. Bath is the first stop on the exhibition’s tour and the Alan Cristea Gallery website will no doubt have details of the later venues in due course.

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