Gillian Ayres

Foreword by Andrew Marr
Texts by Martin Gayford and David Cleaton-Roberts
Designed by Tim Harvey

This book is the definitive monograph on an artist described by many commentators as Britain’s finest abstract painter. For more than six decades, the late Gillian Ayres (1930–2018) has been celebrated for her use of vibrant colour and bold forms to create exuberant compositions full of movement and energy. Unconventional in life and in work, she forged her own individual path regardless of fashion or opinion. Not wishing to conform or to be categorized in any way, she adopted a variety of styles and techniques throughout her career. In the 1950s, she applied oils and household paint with rags and brushes, and by pouring and squirting, in gestural works reminiscent of tachiste painting and Abstract Expressionism. In the 1960s, she created light-filled images in oils and acrylics in keeping with the hedonistic and optimistic mood of that age. In the 1970s, she approached the canvas as an expanse to be filled with an extreme and painterly alloverness. Later in that decade and into the 1980s, she began to use thick and heavy impasto in carefully designed arrangements; and in recent decades, she developed a distinctive style of simplified organic motifs and areas of flat yet intense colour. At all times, Ayres explored the mysterious territory that lies between abstraction and representation, attempting to discover, as she puts it, ‘what painting is, and what can be done with paint’.

Coinciding with a major retrospective exhibition at the National Museum Wales in Cardiff, this beautifully produced volume spans Ayres’ long career, from her student days to the very latest works. It includes all of her major paintings, with a dedicated section on her substantial body of prints. The book also features many photographs of the artist in the studio and at home and other ephemeral materials, making the publication the complete word on this acclaimed and original artist’s life and work.

David Cleaton-Roberts is a director of Alan Cristea Gallery, London. He has written extensively on printmaking, including catalogues o­­­n Gillian Ayres, Tom Wesselmann, Ian Davenport and Jan Dibbets, and articles for Art Review and Printmaking Today. He is currently the vice-president and European representative for the International Fine Print Dealers Association and a patron of the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings.

Martin Gayford is art critic for the Spectator and has held similar posts with the Sunday Telegraph and Bloomberg News. He is the acclaimed author of Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud; A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney; Michelangelo: His Epic Life; The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles; and Constable in Love: Love, Landscape, Money and the Making of a Great Painter. He is also the co-author with David Hockney of A History of Pictures: From Cave to Computer Screen, and with Philippe de Montebello of Rendez-Vous with Art.

Andrew Marr is an award-winning British author, broadcaster and journalist. His many books include The Making of Modern Britain (2009) and A History of the World (2012).