The pioneering abstract painter Gillian Ayres (1930 - 2018) is celebrated for her exploration of vibrant colour and bold forms used to create exuberant compositions full of movement and energy. She started studying art in 1946 and enrolled at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. She first exhibited with Young Contemporaries in 1949 and with the London Group in 1951. Her first solo show was held at Gallery One, London, in 1956. The following year she was commissioned to create a large-scale mural for South Hampstead High School for Girls. In 1963, her vibrant paintings were included in the Whitechapel Art Gallery's ground-breaking exhibition British Painting in the 60s.
Her energetic works were created on a grand scale and evoke a sense of vitality and playfulness. Her huge, improvised canvases were covered in paint sometimes an inch or two thick. She lived and worked in Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales and then, until her death, on the North Devon-Cornwall border.
Major solo exhibitions of Ayres' work have been held at CAFA Art Museum, Beijing (2017); National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (2017); Jerwood Gallery, Hastings (2010); Southampton City Art Gallery (2005); Royal Academy of Arts, London (1997); Manchester City Art Gallery (1993); Serpentine Gallery, London (1983); Museum of Modern Art Oxford (1981); Kettle's Yard, Cambridge (1978) and Arnolfini, Bristol (1964).
Ayres held a number of teaching posts in various art schools, including Bath Academy of Art, Corsham; St Martin's School of Art, London, and Winchester School of Art. She left teaching in 1981, and moved to an old rectory in North Wales to become a full-time painter. In 1989 she was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, and in 1991 was elected Royal Academician. Ayres was appointed a CBE in 2011.
Her paintings and prints are held by major museums and galleries around the world including Tate, London; British Museum, London; Arts Council, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Ulster Museum, Belfast; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Art, Boston; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Museum of Modern Art, Brasilia.