Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Gillian Ayres Exhibition Opens at RAMM

Last Friday I was lucky enough to meet leading British abstract artist Gillian Ayres at the opening of her new exhibition at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum on Saturday 15 June. The exhibition, featuring a beautiful collection of some of her vibrant, heavily-worked canvasses, and bold block prints runs until Sunday 15 September.

Her works resound with a passion that is clearly inspired by her deep love for her craft. Speaking with the RSA from her west country studio in 2009 she explained, ‘It’s all I ever wanted to do, all my life. I can’t live long enough to paint all I want to do. Thirty years ago, I gave up my teaching job at Winchester College of Art to paint. And that’s what I do.’ The vivid colour palette, she explains is not drawn from life, but rather from herself.  ‘People think I came here for the views...but, as you can see, I have no views: I don’t paint from nature so I don’t need them. My paintings are about painting, about shape and colour, not telling stories. From my studio I can’t see beyond the trees.’

Born in 1930, Gillian studied at Camberwell College of Art between 1945 and 1950. She worked initially in London and then went on to teach at the Bath Academy in Corsham, Saint Martins School of Art and finally became Head of Painting at Winchester School of Art. She left teaching in 1981 and moved to Wales and then Cornwall, where she currently lives.

Artist Gillian Ayres at the RAMM Exeter
Over the course of her career, Gillian has made a significant and varied body of original prints. Most of the works in this exhibition have been proofed by Gillian Ayres and Jack Shirreff and were printed at 107 Workshop. Ayres and Shirreff first met at Corsham and it was his reinvigoration of the use of carborundum combined with etching that offered her a whole range of possibilities in the medium of print.

Gillian Ayres’ work is in the collections of the British Museum, Tate, the Victoria & Albert Museum; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gillian was made a Royal Academician in 1991 and awarded a CBE in 2011.

Gillian Ayres: Paintings and Prints 1986 to 2011 runs from Saturday 15 June to Sunday 15 September.

Museum volunteers at opening night
Museum volunteers at opening night

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