John Mcewen com­ments on Il­lium

Country Life Every Week - - My Week -

Gil­lian ayres ti­tles her paint­ings merely to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them—‘my paint­ings are never re­ally of their ti­tles’—and avoids ex­pla­na­tions. ‘The colour i use doesn’t come from na­ture in any di­rect sort of way. it comes from pots of paint,’ she has said.

Her stu­dio home is a 15th-cen­tury cot­tage down a rough track in Corn­wall, the last of the coun­try hide­aways— first in north Wales, then Devon—that she has lived in since the 1980s, when she fi­nally gave up teach­ing, fin­ish­ing as head of paint­ing at Winch­ester Col­lege of art. But her happy and pros­per­ous child­hood was in Barnes, from where her fa­ther worked du­ti­fully in the ayres’s soho fac­tory, founded on the de­mand for mo­torists’ peaked caps.

at six, she en­tered a pro­gres­sive Fro­bel day school: ‘They let you race ahead with what you were in­ter­ested in, a method that is sadly out of fash­ion to­day be­cause we all have to con­form.’ it in­flu­enced her teach­ing, yoko Ono and Gilbert and Ge­orge among her stu­dents. at st Paul’s Girls’ school, she dis­cov­ered van Gogh, Gau­guin, Cézanne and Monet and, as an art stu­dent, was bowled over by the il­lus­trated 1949 Life mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle on Jack­son Pol­lock. she took flight for Corn­wall from Cam­ber­well school of arts and Crafts rather than face her fi­nals: ‘i wanted ab­strac­tion, i wanted pure paint­ing.’ so it has re­mained. ‘Gil­lian Ayres’ at the Na­tional Mu­seum of Wales, Cardiff (April 8– Septem­ber 3) is a ret­ro­spec­tive with spe­cial at­ten­tion paid to her 1980s Welsh paint­ings. It co­in­cides with a new mono­graph by David Cleaton­roberts, Martin Gay­ford and An­drew Marr, pub­lished by Art/books, and an ex­hi­bi­tion of new work, ‘Paint­ings and Wood­cuts’, at Alan Cris­tea Gallery, Lon­don SW1 (March 16–April 22).

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