Gillian Ayres: Paintings and Woodcuts at Alan Cristea
Gillian Ayres RA CBE, now 87 years old, is having a moment in which her career is being reappraised and re-appreciated in the art world. Her new exhibition at Alan Cristea provides a counterpart to a museum show at the National Museum Cardiff, Wales, which opens next month.
The showcase at Alan Cristea’s prestigious new gallery space on Pall Mall features a number of previously unseen works. The most notable of these is Untitled (Cerise), a 1972 piece that is being exhibited for the first time since it was made. It’s a stunning painting and one of few surviving such works by Ayres from this time. It was made by stretching a canvas across the ceiling of the artist’s attic, where she applied thick acrylic paint to the top of the canvas and allowed it to dribble down in elegant swathes. Huge and dramatic, it steals the show on the largest wall in the gallery. There are nods to abstract expressionism, but Ayres has always insisted on creating art that is outside categorisation.
These older compositions are displayed alongside brand new pieces, most of which are striking, especially considering the painter’s years. Ayres follows in a long line of women artists, such as Louise Bourgeois, Mary Heilmann and Maria Lassnig, who receive recognition late in their careers and continue working into their old age.
Although these later works don’t necessarily have the dynamic power of the earlier pieces, they are evidence of a constantly evolving and sophisticated artistic practice. Ayres’s 2016 unusual colourful woodcuts are particularly engaging. There is a feeling, however, that these newer creations don’t have as much to say as her work from the 1970s; colour and contrast abound, but there’s a lack of substance, which is a shame. However, it’s certainly worth making a visit to the show, if only to see Ayres’s stunning 1972 canvas.
Gillian Ayres: Paintings and Woodcuts is at Alan Cristea from 16th March until 22nd April 2017, for further information visit here.