British abstract art sails into Beijing
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
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.