BCD#22

Blind Contour Drawing #22 – “Fingal” Gillian Ayres, 2005

Gillian Ayres was born in 1930 in Barnes, London and grew up in comfort due to her family’s hat making business. She developed interest in art early and enrolled at the age of 16 in the Camberwell School of Art and Crafts.

Ayres exhibited with Young Contemporaries in 1949 and with the London Group in 1951. Her first solo show was at Gallery One, London, in 1956. The following year she was commissioned to create a large-scale mural for South Hampstead High School for Girls. It was not appreciated at the time and was quickly covered with wallpaper. Luckily it was rediscovered in 1983 in nearly perfect condition.

She met her husband, Henry Mundy at school and they married in 1951. They had two sons and eventually divorced in 1981 but remained friends and continued to live together in the same house painting in their separate studios. Mundy and many of his friends were ex-servicemen, their distain towards traditionalists suited Ayres anti-authoritarian attitude and helped her find her voice in abstraction.

Ayres’ early works were usually made with thin vinyl paint with a limited palette. She matured as an artist in the 1950s, in the heyday of “experimental art.” Her rebellious nature helped her to become one of the first British admirers of Jackson Pollock.

Her later works in oil paint are very colourful and thick with paint. Her huge canvases were often worked on in sitting-rooms and bedrooms while her bantams, peacocks, cats and dogs roamed freely from her garden to the kitchen to the studio. The marks of their paws and claws may still be detected in some paintings.

In 1957 Ayres showed at the significant exhibition Metavisual, Tachiste, Abstract: Painting in England Today, at the Redfern gallery. She was the only woman in the Situation exhibition at the RBA Galleries in 1960, the first group show of British abstract art of the new decade.

Ayres worked part-time at the AIA Gallery from 1951-59 before starting to teach. She held a number of teaching positions through the 1960s and 1970s. In 1959, she was asked to teach at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, for six weeks. They asked her to stay and she remained on the teaching staff until 1965.

In 1965 she became a senior lecturer at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London, she stayed there until 1978 when she became head of painting at Winchester School of Art in 1978, she was the first female teacher in the UK to this position. She left teaching in 1981, and moved north-west Wales to become a full-time painter. 1987 she relocated to the North Devon-Cornwall border where she remained for the rest of her life.

She smoked about 3 packs of cigarettes a day, worked throughout the night if she felt like it, gave money to friends, wasn’t much of a housekeeper, collected broken pieces of china and loved Elizabethan poetry. Her favourite painter was Rubens. Ayres ignored most advice, including medical and didn’t have much time for current affairs.

Ayres was one of Britain’s most significant abstract painters and has been described as courageous, independent, determined with a generous heart.

She died at the age of 88 near her beloved cottage and studio in North Devon. Her paintings and prints are held by major museums and galleries around the world.

Born: 1930, London
Died: 2018, North Devon

 

Thrive Talk by Marlene Lowden – My personal artist story

Meet my teachers and hear my very personal story on becoming an artist.

This is an audio recording (with slides) of my talk for Thrive on March 29th, 2017.

Public speaking is pretty scary and sharing your personal story adds another layer of vulnerability. I want to thank the Thrive network for the invitation to speak because I learned so much about myself in the process.  It was an incredibly supportive audience and I recommend that you take a peek at their blog to hear more stories from that night.

I hope that there are bits of what I share that help you reflect on your story and discover the beauty even in the dark and seemingly insignificant parts.

 

 

 

Thrive is a network for female and femme-identified artists based out of Vancouver but has members from around the globe.

 

To stay connected visit me on Instagram – marlenelowden and sign up for my monthly newsletter.

 


 

Unity in Diversity Artist Statement via video!

 

This is my artist’s statement about my new series of oil paintings called the Unity in Diversity series.  Less than a minute and perhaps, my more serious philosophical side.

 

 

If you’d rather read than watch – here’s a slightly longer version:

Unity in Diversity

It comes from the shadow and the light.

It comes through the torment of Orlando, Istanbul and Nice.

It comes from my inner dialogue about gender, race, religion and power.

And out of the magic and memories of our retreat in Spain.
It is from the jaw dropping beauty of the Rocky Mountains and the experience of hiking in alpine flower meadows. And inspired by the music of Peter Gabriel and Sting on stage together.

It even comes from an encounter with a Grizzly bear.

It is from the pure beauty of colour, a celebration of rainbows and the joy of creating from a place within – that I feel so blessed to access.

It is about letting go of the idea that unity is somehow perfect, that it is circular and smooth.

It is about acknowledging the contradictions of your wants, words and actions.

It is rocking a pinstripe suit and a tattoo.

It is about recognizing that conflict and difference need to exist – they are the seeds of innovation and creativity.

And that being Whole doesn’t mean you’ve got it all together.

Unity is messy and dynamic and it is ok if pieces stick out and bits hang out on the edge.

This is the celebration of unity in diversity within our own nature,
in our relationships, in our communities and in our shared humanity.

Namaste,

Marlene

 

A few pieces from the series:

 

What do you dream of?

I’ll tell you that I’ve dreamt about being a painter for as long as I can remember. I didn’t believe that I ever would be for almost as equally long.

Thankfully something shifted.

I can’t remember the circumstances. You would think it would have been a dramatic epiphany, but no.

It could have been one of those tragic news stories we hear almost daily, an accident, a loss. It could have been a whispered story, a diagnosis, grief. If could have been words in a book, a poem, maybe even a quote on coffee cup.

The source is irrelevant but the message was clear.

Do I have any regrets?

In this moment, at this time, if I were the subject of the news story, if I received the diagnosis, or due to loss or grief wrote the story in the book – did I have any unfulfilled dreams? Were their holes in my life, a void, or a yearning that I was ignoring?

I felt confident that I had given my girls a loving foundation that they could build on. I was blessed to have met the love of my life and be in a supportive and tender relationship. I had traveled to wonderful places. I felt secure in the knowledge that I was loved and that I had served.

I could honestly answer that only one thing remained – that at that point in time, I had not given myself enough time to explore with paint.

Simple I know and maybe to some trivial but to me, my heart’s calling.

I can’t tell you how amazing it feels now to know that even though I dream and plan and desire to continue to love, serve, and explore life – I am content.

I have honoured that dream of mine.

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to make choices but I return to that shift, that feeling as a filter for my decisions.

lcglogoOne of my closest friends, (since we were 18), took the leap this past year to fulfill her dream. She purchased a gift gallery in her hometown, supporting Canadian artists and artisans, serving those looking for unique and hand crafted work. I watch her working her magic in her window fronts, with her displays and her impeccable customer service.

windowpaintingI’m so proud of her. I’ll never forget the nightmare that perhaps created her shift and I am so blessed that she is in my life.

This past weekend, our dreams merged. I am her feature artist for the month with my paintings hanging in her gallery. I had the privilege of spending the day in Maple Ridge painting at the Little Cricket Gift Gallery immersed in her dream and sharing mine with those who walked in the door.

Maybe our story will serve you today.

Dream big and take a step towards it, we applaud you.

Namaste

Marlene