"A good painting is a number of coloured marks, made by hand, brush or roller, across a flat surface, so that later a viewer can absorb emotional and intellectual energy from it. A good, or great, painter is simply a hard-working individual who has, over a period of time, produced many good paintings. By this reckon-ing, Gillian Ayres has to be one of our finest." Andrew Marr, 2016
In Spring 2017, a major solo exhibition by Gillian Ayres RA CBE (b. 1930), one of Britain's most respected and best-loved post-war artists and a pioneer of abstract painting, will be launched at the Alan Cristea Gallery, London (16 March - 22 April 2017). New paintings will be shown alongside a series of recently completed works on paper, unseen early drawings and a monumental painting made by Ayres in the early 1970s.
To coincide with this exhibition, Art/ Books, will publish the definitive monograph on Ayres. Written by Martin Gayford it is the first major publication on the artist's life and work in more than fifteen years.
Unconventional in life and in work, Ayres, who turned eighty seven in February, continues to forge her own individual path regardless of fashion or opinion. The preparation for this major celebration of Ayres' work has brought to light an unseen monumental action painting from the early 1970s, and an archive of preparatory works, drawings, paintings, and unpublished photographs.
Never before seen early paintings will be shown alongside a monu-mental painting, Untitled (Cerise), 1972, which will be displayed for the first time since being made. Untitled (Cerise), is a rare example of a surviving painting from this period. Ayres pinned the canvas to the wall of her attic, which stretched the length of her house in Barnes, South London. Thick acrylic was laid on top of the canvas and swept down, to end in runs and dribbles. Gestural work on such a vast scale was reminiscent of European tachiste painting and American abstract expressionism.
Not wishing to conform or to be categorised in any way, Ayres has adopted a variety of styles and techniques throughout her career. These early works will be shown alongside new paintings, dating from 2016, which use thick applied oil paint to create clear and defined edges and shapes, and a recently completed body of woodcut prints, works produced by an artist at the height of her powers and that are exuberant, vigorous and full of colour and energy.
The new monograph, Gillian Ayres, will span Ayres' six-decade long career. Featuring over 400 pages, and 300 illustrations, it includes a foreword by broadcaster and journalist Andrew Marr, and texts by author and art critic, Martin Gayford and David Cleaton-Roberts of the Alan Cristea Gallery. These will be accompanied by previously unpublished photographs of the artist in her studio and at home.