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Art HERstory: Gillian Ayres


Art HERstory: Gillian Ayres

Imagine a world where a Bachelor’s degree wasn’t the equivalent to a high school diploma. Strange huh? These days you can’t land a gig with a 5 figure salary without a sheet of paper saying you completed 4 additional years of note taking. London girl Gillian Ayres (1930 – )grew up in an era where Kindergarten didn’t even exist. Despite the lack of early childhood education, Gillian made one hell of a living. No SAT necessary.

'Maritsa' (2006)

‘Education’ for Gillian started at the age of six. Her wealthy parents sent her to a progressive school in Roehampton which was pretty much a rough draft of modern day Kindergarten. Once completing primary school, she was sent to secondary school at Colet Court where she learned how to read at age eleven. Not being able to read or write until 6th grade? Wow. Not don’t get me wrong, GIllian was a bright girl. She passed the entrance exam for post-secondary school, but said screw the system.

'Glimmer' (2009)

Instead of completing her education, Gillian dropped out when she was of age to do so and directed all her attention towards her art. Her first choice in art school was Slade School of Fine Art. She applied and was accepted there in 1946. Too bad the admissions board didn’t pay more attention to her date of birth. Gillian was denied enrollment because she was only sixteen. Slade suggested applying to Camberwell School of Art. She did. She studied there from 1946 to 1950.

'Round About Midnight' (2004)

After art school, all brushes and paints were packed. Gillian was on her way to the States. New York City to be exact. She landed a job in SoHo at the AIA Gallery in 1951. Networking while employed by the gallery paid off. Gillian held her first solo exhibition in 1956. Three years later she put down the brush and picked up a ruler. She held a full time teaching position until 1981. She couldn’t stay away for long.

'Saana Sunlight' (2006)

Palette in hand, she was back to her canvas. In her early works, Gillian used vinyl paints in a limited selection of colors. Upon returning to her craft she became obsessed with color. Her late oil paintings were full of color, life, and movement. A true abstract artist.

'Distillation' (1959)

In her career Gillian earned many honors. She was accepted in to the Order of the British Empire in 1986 and became a Royal Academician in 1991. Gillian is now 81.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

'Finnegans Lake' (2001)


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