Gillian Ayres

On Saturday I met a very important person for the first time, Gillian Ayres.

People say “Don’t meet your heroes”, although I disagree. It is fantastic to discover that, in fact, they are both normal and human. As Gillian and I chatted briefly about her work and mine it was obvious that we share the same love of paint and colour and that the desire to create is too strong to perceive what we do as ‘work’. Yet the business of developing the career is less easy and can be described as a job.

Gillian remarked that her career picked up at my age (disappointingly she guessed my age accurately!) and she recognised my ambition to achieve a similar career path. However, I think the dream for me is to set up the process to enable me to continue to be painting and exhibiting at 85 years old as she has – fabulous.

Gillian Ayres has long been a profound influence for me, not only in a visual way but also her passion for painting and love of pure colour. I remember a tutor of mine from long ago, when I was on my Foundation course in Hartlepool, remarking that he thought I was brave using such high colour…but what is there to be frightened of really? It’s like a wonderful game in which there are no rules; it is not possible to get it wrong if it feels right. Sometimes the joy comes from putting colours together that ‘shouldn’t go’ or compositions which, have tensions that ‘shouldn’t balance’ and yet it is possible with shifts in the heat, depth or tone of the colour…they do.

One of the elements of Gillian’s work that I told her I was interested is is how she uses dark tones is such a way that they don’t feel heavy but actually remain buoyant and positive because of how they interact with the bright colour. This is something that I love in Matisse’s work too.

Gillian Ayres has sited Jackson Pollock and Henri Matisse as influences in a recent interview for the Financial Times. These are apparent in some of the active mark making that she uses, in the interpretation of shape in her works or the flat cut-out appearance of the coloured shapes in her latest works. I share her love of Matisse, not just because of last year’s major exhibition of his cut-outs at Tate Modern but for me it is the activity of the coloured shapes within the composition. It is as if his work has a life beyond the constraints of the canvas edge. I feel that Gillian Ayres work has this same buoyant nature.

Throughout our chat Gillian humbly repeated the words “Thank you” as I tried to say how much pleasure I have gained from her paintings and prints over the years but in fact the person with the biggest thank you was me.

Thank you Gillian Ayres.


Alan Cristea Gallery

New paintings by Gillian Ayres are now available to view online!

Gillian’s exhibition of new paintings and prints, displayed alongside key historical works, opens on 13 April 2015.


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