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'Anthony and Cleopatra' was painted in the artist's studio at Llaniestyn, North Wales in the winter of 1981-2. It contrasts with the densely worked surfaces of her paintings during the 1970s. Ayres has explained that she wanted to achieve a sense of the sublime through the scale of markings. It also differs from other paintings of the early 1980s in having a yellow ochre ground rather than a white ground. The reason for this was that she was snowed in for several days and was unable to purchase any white lead. As usual, the title was given after the painting was completed. Ayres's titles do not describe the subject of the paintings. Rather the titles have a 'resonance' which relates to the character of each work.

September 2004