Gillian Ayres, R.A. 1930 -
Photo: R.A./John Hammond
© The Artist
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Salix, 1990-1991
Oil on canvas, 610 X 1840 X 36 mm
Diploma Work given by Gillian Ayres, R.A., accepted 1991
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Salix, painted by Gillian Ayres between 1990 and 1991, engulfs the viewer with possibility. Because this painting has no defined narrative the viewer must construct their own interpretation using the tools that Ayres provides: colour, texture and space. Its abstraction is a way to convey the piece's individuality and in this way Salix is representational of Ayres's body of work.

Ayres was born in 1930 in Barnes. From 1945-50 she studied at Camberwell College of Art where she first began exploring non-figurative art. During her lifetime she has lived in London, Wales, and she now resides in Cornwall. Ayres has also travelled extensively, including a trip to India as Britain's only representative at the seventh Triennale in 1991. She has taught at the Bath Academy of Art, St. Martin's School of Art, London from 1965-1978 and was Head of Painting at Winchester School of Art where she remained until 1981.

Salix is typical of Ayres' work in conveying the passion and familiarity she has for paint. Her works are easily described as 'painterly', but that is a simplification of what Ayres achieves. Ayres uses paint to create an abstract universe within her composition. However, rather than being lost in the subject matter, the viewer becomes engulfed by the heavy brushstrokes which are highlighted rather than hidden. Salix is composed of a variety of influences from geometry and nature, and through the layering of pattern and colour a composition is formed using shapes and patterns that are simultaneously familiar and unknown. Ayres uses paint in a three-dimensional way, sculpting it to create depth. For example, the meeting of the yellow and green spotted area on the deep red in the bottom left corner forces the blue forward. As a result, the viewer feels as if they are looking through several layers, instead of looking at neighbouring sections of paint. The vibrant use of colour combined with strong compositional elements enables Ayres to creates in Salix an internal world all of its own.