Tuesday 15 October 2019

British abstract artist Gillian Ayres dies aged 88

The Turner Prize-nominated artist died at a hospital in north Devon on Wednesday, her representative confirmed.

Artist Gillian Ayres with her CBE (Lewis Whyld/PA)
Artist Gillian Ayres with her CBE (Lewis Whyld/PA)

By Joe Nerssessian, Press Association

Gillian Ayres, one of Britain’s pioneering abstract artists, has died aged 88.

The Turner Prize-nominated artist died at a hospital in north Devon on Wednesday, her representative, the Alan Cristea Gallery, confirmed.

A spokeswoman for the gallery told the Press Association that Ayres was a “pioneering, great, wonderful woman” and revealed she had been battling ill health for the past six months.

Mr Cristea, who worked with Ayres for more than 20 years, paid tribute to the artist who he said “always pursued her own creative path”.

Ayres studied at London’s Camberwell School of Art in the post-war period and as a young artist in the 1950s was friends with leading British abstract artists including Roger Hilton.

She was attracted to Tachism – a French style of abstract expressionism – creating a large body of work that made her a leading light in the UK.

In the following decades, her style changed as she tapped into prevailing national moods or the work of other artists, but she remained committed to abstraction.

In October 2011 she received a CBE for her services to art.

Mr Cristea added: “As a female abstract artist working in the UK, Gillian Ayres was way ahead of her time and the vast majority of her male counterparts but of course, for her, gender was an irrelevance.

“She was an artist, pure and simple, and resisted all attempts to be classified as some kind of feminist, artistic beacon for younger generations.

“Certainly, there were comparisons to be made early on with American abstract art but she always pursued her own creative path.”

He revealed they had staged seven exhibitions of her work and said every one was a “life-enhancing experience since her exuberance and her strength imbued all of us at the gallery”.

He added: “I will treasure the memories of these exhibitions and of our frequent visits to her house and studio on the Devon/Cornwall border where we were always treated to lavish meals, large doses of champagne and riveting anecdotes delivered through clouds of cigarette smoke.

“She was a joy. I loved her to bits and will miss her enormously.”

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