Gillian Ayres

Today, a fellow artist told me about Gillian Ayres. I had never heard of her, so I looked her up. In the 4 seconds it took me to conduct a Google image search, I knew I had discovered a new source of inspiration.

Dance of the Ludi Magni, Oil on canvas, 1984.

I mean, just look at this painting. It’s a riot of color. It’s wonderfully lawless. It gives off tremendous energy.

Ayres died in 2018 and here are some great clips from her obituary in the NYT.

The physicality of making art, in this case the wet, goopy nature of paint and how it interacts with brushes, palette knives and canvas – is something that gets little to no press from art critics. Yet, for Ayres (and me!) it is very appealing aspect of painting.

I also love that Ayres wasn’t precious about her work. Sue Hubbard, a friend of the artist, tells this story from when she visited Ayres in Italy:

“She was always enormously generous, and I left Rome carrying a painting fresh from the studio which, in those days before security checks, I carried onto the plane still wet. When I got it home, I realised I’d pressed my thumb into a layer of thick turquoise paint. I rang Gillian appalled. Oh, don’t worry, she said, in that unpretentious way of hers, just squash it over. I did, and in so doing, went down to the next layer of pink paint. Of course, these many years later it has dried. My thumbprint now a part of its history.”

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