AH MINE HEART 1981
Gillian Ayres (1930 – 2018)
- 99 CM DIAMETER
- OIL ON WOOD
- Accession number
Many of Gillian Ayres’ paintings took titles from Greek myths and from the world of opera, and it was obvious that she looked to such sources for strength, drama and passion, qualities she admired and wished to convey in her paintings. She said of Titian and Rubens, two painters she revered, that they use the medium of painting in the fullest possible way, displaying ‘a complete combination of heart and mind…’ This was something Ayres strove to emulate, and it is notable that this work has the word ‘heart’ in its title. Her acknowledgement of these great painters is reflected in two ways in this work, firstly in the medium chosen, and secondly, in the format. Ayres’ painting career now spans more than five decades, and although she began by painting in oils, she moved on to commercial household paints, especially Ripolin enamel (led in this choice by such mentors as Picasso and Jackson Pollock) and then to acrylic paint, which she used exclusively from the late 1960s to 1977. She then turned back to oil painting, which allowed rich, bold, rough and vibrant application.
The circular format of this painting was quite unusual in British art of the time, and referred back to the tondo form of Italian Renaissance art. Painters like Botticelli, Fra Angelico and Michaelangle produced easel paintings of circular form, and were able to demonstrate their talents for containing a figurative composition within a round form. Ayres had a slightly easier task in that her work was non-figurative and related therefore more directly to the unconventional shape of the support. She allowed the natural brown colour of the wooden support (actually a salvaged table top) show through all round the edge, and successfully balanced the emphasis given to the edge of the painting a richly worked and vigorously decorative content. She worked with speed, usually covering the entire ground in one session, and then returned, perhaps after an interval, to apply further layers whose brushwork and colour combined to create a lyrical yet dynamic whole. Even when her work is on a small scale, and this tondo is less than a metre across, it has an expansiveness and energy which stemmed from her experiences of working on a very large scale, beginning with the whole wall of a school dining hall in 1957, and continued with the three to four metre canvases in the 1980s.
A selection of paintings and sculpture; The British Council Collection, The British Council 1984
Modern synthetic paint that combines some of the properties of oils and watercolour. Most are water-based, although some are oil compatible, using turpentine as a thinner. When it became available to artists in America around 1936 it was the first new painting medium in centuries and has become a serious rival to oil paint because of its versatility. Acrylic paints can be used on nearly any surface. The water-based nature of acrylic paint allows for easy application and rapid drying time: acrylic paint dries in a matter of minutes, as opposed to the many months required for oil-based paints. Once the paint has been applied to a surface, the water evaporates, leaving behind the synthetic resin (and pigment), which is no longer water-soluble. Visually, acrylic-based paints can appear to be very similar to oil-based paints, but they cannot rival the rich, translucent nature of oils.
Refers to either the material used to create a work of art, craft or design, i.e. oil, bronze, earthenware, silk; or the technique employed i.e. collage, etching, carving. In painting the medium refers to the binder for the pigment, e.g. oil, egg, acrylic dispersion. The plural form is media.
A medium in which ground pigments are mixed to produce a paste or liquid that can be applied to a surface by a brush or other tool; the most common oil used by artists is linseed, this can be thinned with turpentine spirit to produce a thinner and more fluid paint. The oil dries with a hard film, and the brightness of the colour is protected. Oil paints are usually opaque and traditionally used on canvas.
Work of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is a tightly stretched piece of canvas, paper or a wooden panel. Painting involves a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's intellectual concerns effecting the content of a work.