Mayfair

Gillian Ayres

September 14 - October 30, 2021

Marlborough London is delighted to present a selection of large-scale paintings and works on paper by Gillian Ayres (1930-2018). This will be the first exhibition of the late artist’s work at the Gallery, where she joins a roster among the most accomplished and influential British artists of the 20th century. It offers a rare opportunity to see works made during a transformative period of Ayres’ life in the 1980s and a crucial moment of experimentation which established the artist’s uniquely dynamic and gestural style. Many of these paintings have not been seen for decades, while several other works from the same period were lost in the 2004 Momart fire.

Ayres’ thrilling discovery of Hans Hofmann’s paintings at the Hirshhorn Museum in 1976 had a profound effect on her practice as she returned to London and immediately began to use oil paint in thick and complex impasto, developing a rich chromatic palette that is now instantly recognisable as her own. The resulting paintings demonstrate Ayres’ new-found joy and freedom of spirit having resigned from teaching at the Winchester School of Art and recovered from a period of serious illness. In 1981 she relocated from Barnes to the remote Llyn peninsula in North West Wales, where she dedicated her life to painting and worked towards a series of important exhibitions including solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford in 1981 and the Serpentine Gallery in 1983. In 1987 she moved again, settling on the North Devon coast.

In both her ‘Welsh’ paintings and the revived mood of later works, Ayres celebrates the vibrant materiality of paint, often working on one canvas over many months to build up thick layers of colour and huge brush marks to produce increasingly distinct yet never fully representational forms. As Martin Gayford writes, ‘what truly interested Gillian from the beginning was the nature and potential of pigment itself: all the different kinds of things it could do. She saw that these possibilities could only be investigated physically and intuitively. Making a painting, she insisted, “is a visual experience not a literary one. It’s about what can be done with paint”.’

Ayres, Cuckoo Time, 1987, oil on canvas, 109 3-4 x 98 in., 279 x 249 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

Cuckoo Time, 1987

Ayres, Dance of Ludi Magni, 1984, oil on canvas, 65 5-8 x 135 3-4 in., 167 x 345 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

Dance of Ludi Magni, 1987

Ayres, Hydaspes, 1988, oil on canvas, 124 x 97 in., 315 x 246.5 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

Hydaspes, 1988

Ayres, The Bee Loud Glade, 1987, oil on canvas, 112 1-8 x 112 1-8 in., 285 x 285 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

The Bee Loud Glade, 1987

Ayres, Ding Dong Merrily on High, 1989,  oil on canvas, 112 1-8 x 113 in., 285 x 287 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

Ding Dong Merrily on High, 1989

Ayres, Phosphor, 1979-80, oil on canvas, 59 3-4 x 60 in., 152 x 152.5 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

Phosphor, 1979-80

Ayres, Sabrina, 1978, oil on canvas, 96 3-8 x 60 1-8 in., 245 x 153 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

Sabrina, 1978

Ayres, August, 1987, oil on canvas, 82 5-8 x 153 1-2 in., 210 x 390 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

August, 1987

Ayres, Untitled, 1981, pastel on paper, 9 x 12 1-8 x 23 x 31 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

Untitled, 1981

Ayres, Untitled, 1982, oil on paper, 16 1-2 x 23 1-2 in., 42 x 60 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

Untitled, 1982

Ayres, Untitled, 1982, oil on paper,  17 5-8 x 25 5-8 in., 45 x 52.4 cm
The Estate of Gillian Ayres

Untitled, 1982

‘Shapes, spaces... It’s the way I see the world. To me art – colour in art is wonderfully indulging… All the painting I’ve liked has always been colour painting. I’ve found that I respond to colour more than anything.’ - Gillian Ayres