Comments on: Gillian Ayres: Paintings from the 50s http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/ Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Will http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-318210 Fri, 29 Nov 2013 12:30:37 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-318210 Hi, I found your discussion after seeing Gillian Ayres ‘Break Off’ for the first time last Saturday at the Tate ‘Housewarming’ and being bowled over by it. I wanted to take it home and hang it on the biggest wall of my house. For me its power lies not just in the painterly effects and character interactions but in the cocktail of associations that I personally can make from it. The more abstract a painting is, the more possibility there is for a viewer is to make their own personal interpretation and meaning. I was able to read the painting as a new extension to my current thinking, understanding and ideas. For me its power would be diminished if I could only see it as a combination of original painterly characters dancing about in a void unrelated to anything within my experience (though it is still uniquely beautiful simply as that).
As to ‘Break off’ being fragmented, loose and not quite working, I think that the lack of integration here allows the viewer to break off the characters from the painting and relate to them as separate entities. The characters are still moving. Some are already floating off (or onto?) the edge of canvas. To me to have some aspect unresolved is a quality of genuine painting. The viewer has some work to do. I would always pick the challenging, awkward and alive over anything erring towards the slick!

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By: Sam http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-137126 Fri, 12 Apr 2013 06:06:41 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-137126 interesting…

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By: Robert Linsley http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-136768 Thu, 11 Apr 2013 18:21:34 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-136768 Robin keeps harping on space, which he sees as the great frontier for abstraction. Hope I’m not putting words in his mouth again, but that’s what I see. But then he sounds like no one so much as Frank Stella circa 1985, an artist he deplores. Is this an irony? Maybe not, because as Robin should know, it’s not the theory that counts but the accomplishment.

In any case, all definitions are forms of failure. Why should anyone care if an artist invents a coherent abstract pictorial space? It’s what they do with it that matters. No formal element has any value in itself, the magic of art is in how space enables form or form produces space, or maybe it’s how forms emerge in time or how time emerges out of space or cool makes warm or light dark – whatever. It’s not fixable.

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By: Robin Greenwood http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-134850 Mon, 08 Apr 2013 21:07:49 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-134850 I don’t think I have detailed a preference for hard or soft edges. It’s irrelevant. If I’ve used the term ‘painterly’, it was to make a contrast with an unintegrated graphic style.

Painterly gesture is as much a cliche as hard edge geometry. Generally, I like to see as much variety as possible in each individual painting. But if you went all out for that as an intention, it would be just as false. The question is, what is the spatial content, and how are you going to best bring it about. Everything else follows.

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By: Robert Linsley http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-134813 Mon, 08 Apr 2013 19:56:48 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-134813 Interesting discussion about unity. I take it Robin is talking about a picture with discrete outlined forms, and he prefers something softer, with forms that have less distinct edges – which he sees as more conducive to a painterly unity. Not sure, but that’s what I’m seeing in my mind’s eye. If that’s the case, I don’t necessarily agree, because I can think of pictures with clear edges around all the forms which are very much unified – my own for example. I also have to observe that lines don’t have to be drawn out to be present, and that a picture might have both soft areas with gentle tonal transitions and clear, sharp edged forms with lines that run between and through all those things without actually being part of any of them – as in Poussin for example, or Cezanne, or my work again. I agree with the need to move on from flatness, but don’t find “painterliness” to be necessarily exciting or moving. Today it is normally just conventional, ingratiating, and without resistance. Hard and soft should both be present in the painter’s toolbox.

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By: Robin Greenwood http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-134730 Mon, 08 Apr 2013 17:08:52 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-134730 I think your last sentence is a very good way of describing the difference.

I think I would apply that to the Weyden. It’s a very full-on visual experience, and it allows you to move freely around the space it creates. And although it is figurative, and has a story, it is as much an imagined, invented space as any abstract painting – probably more so.

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By: Noela http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-134699 Mon, 08 Apr 2013 16:09:33 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-134699 I see what you are saying about expressing spatial qualities in abstract painting, and how Gillian Ayres’ later works lack that quality. Would you describe the Van der Weyden as more illustrative if not graphic? Or do you see ‘painterly’ as state of excitement and movement as opposed to stasis which can creep into graphic work?

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By: Robin Greenwood http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-134688 Mon, 08 Apr 2013 15:32:10 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-134688 I think that is quite a complex question. I don’t think the Van der Weyden is at all graphic – though of course he or his assistants would have drawn it out from possibly some kind of fixed scheme. That is not to say that there isn’t lots of figurative painting that fails, for me, on those terms. But maybe in figurative art the problem is different. Maybe the figurative spatial content more often than not insists that you build the thing in a certain way that is believable for that space (though I don’t mean naturalistic); whereas in abstract painting you are inventing from scratch on a flat ground, so you are immediately faced with the prospect of flatness, with no spatial content at the outset to pull you out of it. If you then immediatly give in to that flatness, by designing, drawing, whatever, in two dimensions, as so much abstract painting to my eyes does, then you lose the huge potential of inventing for yourself a fluid, coherent and complex abstract space. The latter is not, I don’t think, dependent upon how you ‘handle’ the paint, whether loosely of tightly. I would only say that the spatial ‘content’ of the work, when finally discovered, perhaps needs to be, so to speak, watertight.

Of course, lots of abstract painters (and writers) go deliberately for the flatness. But I think we need to move on from that.

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By: Noela http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-134664 Mon, 08 Apr 2013 14:59:09 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-134664 Just want to ask Robin Greenwood if he thinks that graphic composition should be avoided in abstract painting as opposed to figurative painting such as in the Van der Weyden Columba triptych for instance.
Are you saying visually graphic abstract painting is not as convincing as something more loosely handled?

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By: Robin Greenwood http://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/#comment-134613 Mon, 08 Apr 2013 13:19:56 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6350#comment-134613 At which point (to return to our other argument) one might say that the fixed graphic formalism that dictates too much to the painting becomes an idea that stands in the way of any real pictorial discovery.

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