Bri­tish ab­stract art sails into Bei­jing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIN QI

Age pro­hibits Gil­lian Ayres, the Bri­tish ab­stract artist, from do­ing as much work as she would love to with re­gard to paint­ing and gar­den­ing.

“The day I was no longer able to dig a hole and plant some­thing or climb up lad­ders to paint large paint­ings was as bad as the day my driv­ing li­cense was taken away be­cause of old age,” the 87-year-old artist says in an email in­ter­view.

Yet her lat­est paint­ings still burst fiercely with vi­brant col­ors and pow­er­ful shapes. She is in­spired by the en­vi­ron­ment sur­round­ing her home in the re­mote­ness of south­west­ern Eng­land and also the plants she has grown for some 30 years.

“The place I live is a great place to work and paint,” she says.

“Most of my fa­vorite plants orig­i­nally come from China.”

She sees na­ture as paints, she says.

Ayres will share the rich­ness of her art in her China de­but in Bei­jing on July 30.

Ti­tled Sail­ing off the Edge, the ex­hi­bi­tion to be held at the Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts from July 30, will show 17 large paint­ings that she has pro­duced since 1979.

That year marked a spe­cial mo­ment in Ayres’ ca­reer. She had just be­come head of paint­ing at the Winch­ester School of Art, the first woman to hold such a po­si­tion in Bri­tain.

She gave up teach­ing in 1981 to be a ca­reer painter. But it was not un­til her late 50s that she could live by paint­ing alone.

Ex­plain­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tle, Philip Dodd, the Bri­tish cu­ra­tor, says it is be­cause Ayres com­pares her way of paint­ing to the ex­pe­ri­ence of Mag­el­lan, the Por­tuguese ex­plorer who thought the world was flat be­fore he sailed, and “sailed off the edge of the known world”, find­ing new worlds.

He says when Ayres is asked about what her paint­ings mean, she says she does not know.

“She says this be­cause each time she does a paint­ing she is ‘sail­ing off the edge’, ex­plor­ing new worlds in paint. Her paint­ings are new worlds, un­known be­fore they are made,” Dodd says.

Ayres will not at­tend the ex­hi­bi­tion open­ing be­cause of a heart prob­lem and di­a­betes.

She says she was so ill last winter that it took her a long time to get bet­ter.

Her artist son Sam Mundy will be present on her be­half.

Be­sides the Bei­jing ex­hi­bi­tion, a ret­ro­spec­tive of Ayres’ art is now on at the Na­tional Mu­seum Cardiff, Wales, through Sept 3.

Her ex­hi­bi­tions ad­dress a re­cent phe­nom­e­non in the in­ter­na­tional art world — show­cas­ing se­nior fe­male artists.

Ex­hi­bi­tions are be­ing held to rec­og­nize their cre­ativ­ity that was over­looked ear­lier.

Dodd says that thanks to the waves of fem­i­nism peo­ple now look back and see fe­male artists who were in­vis­i­ble to mu­se­ums ear­lier.

“Gil­lian Ayres is an im­por­tant artist be­cause she is a good artist. But this present mo­ment makes it eas­ier to ‘see’ her.”

Ayres says the act of try­ing to achieve some­thing is in re­al­ity “very lonely”, but she has never felt in­fe­rior as a woman be­cause half of the world is made up of them.

“There is noth­ing stop­ping them (fe­male artists)!”

The place I live is a great place to work and paint. Most of my fa­vorite plants orig­i­nally come from China.” Gil­lian Ayres, artist

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Bri­tish ab­stract artist Gil­lian Ayres’ ex­hi­bi­tion, Sailin­gofftheEdge, to be held at the Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts in Bei­jing, will show­case 17 large paint­ings she has pro­duced since 1979.

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