Gillian Ayres OBE



Not on display

Gillian Ayres OBE 1930–2018
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1524 × 3048 × 32mm
Purchased 1973

Display caption

Early in her career Ayres made work by pouring paint directly onto the canvas. Break-off comes from a time when she began to use a brush, arriving here at a greater sense of order and structure. Ayres observed of this development that ‘to fill in a square is possibly not so real as to create a shape with a brush’.

Gallery label, September 2016

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Catalogue entry

Gillian Ayres b.1930

T01715 Break-off 1961

Inscribed on the back ‘BREAK-OFF Gillian AYRES/August 61’.
Oil on canvas, 60x 120 (152.5x 305).
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1973.
Exh: British Art Today, San Francisco Museum of Art, November–December,1963 (1), and tour.

The following entry has been approved by Gillian Ayres.

‘Break-Off’ is of the same vintage as the works in the artist’s second exhibition at the Molton Gallery in 1962.

In the introduction to the catalogue of that exhibition Alan Bowness wrote ‘Having for a time enjoyed unlimited freedom with painterly exuberance, Gillian Ayres now seems to be in process of redefining her painting and redefining it in terms of a more measured, less unfettered art. She retains the conspicuous ease of handling and the effulgent, luxuriant, sensuous perhaps peculiarly feminine colour that have always characterised her work, but a new sense of order is emerging... The forms in her pictures indeed have a definition and a concreteness they until very recently lacked. No longer do they exist in a limitless atmospheric space; the pools of colour now lie solidly on the surface of the canvas.’

During 1959 the artist had begun increasingly to use a brush (usually a house painter’s) to create shapes within the flow of paint although the linear thrust of the brush was constantly diffused by working on a surface fluid with turps. The circles in the present painting similarly still have their origins in poured circles and the artist told the compiler that she was still much concerned with brushmarks and ‘changing the edges of things’.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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