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Gillian Ayres

Born 1930, London UK. Died 2018

Gillian Ayres studied at Camberwell School of Art from 1946-50. She began making abstract paintings in 1950 and found herself part of a generation of British artists who responded to American abstract expressionism. She was the only woman artist to be represented in the Situation exhibitions of the 1960s. Her work at this time employed the drip and pour techniques of action painting. Her first solo exhibition was at Gallery One in 1956: the same year that the Tate Gallery presented Modern Art in the USA, the first major exhibition in the UK of work by the American abstract expressionists.

She worked part time at the AIA Gallery from 1951 to 1959. From there she went to teach at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham for the next six years. She taught at St Martin’s School of Art, London from 1965 to 1978 and in 1978 became Head of Painting at Winchester School of Art where she remained until 1981.

Her earlier work is characterised by thin, acrylic paint in a limited number of colours. However, her later work features thick impasto oil paint in brilliant colours. She had a solo exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1995 and at the Royal Academy in London in 1997. She became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1982 and an Academician in 1991. She was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1989 and awarded the OBE in 1996.

Her work is represented in major national collections including the Arts Council of Great Britain, British Council, British Museum, Gulbenkian Foundation Lisbon, Museum of Modern Art Brasilia, Museum of Modern Art New York, Tate Gallery London, Ulster Museum Belfast, Victoria and Albert Museum London, Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut USA.

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