In conversation with… Gill Ayre

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How would you describe your creative practice?

I am primarily a painter working with oils on canvas, and I also enjoy some printmaking and working with mixed media. My creative practice is an expression of my own emotional response to the natural world we live in. This is always my starting place, either captured in a quick sketch, or a photograph, or just notes scribbled down on a scrap of paper. I tend to have several canvases on the go at any one time (otherwise I would waste a lot of time watching paint dry!), so I usually start by working on an existing piece while the ideas for new work are gestating. A blank canvas can be quite daunting and intimidating, so I find it useful to just ‘spill’ some paint on, something quick drying, such as acrylic, just to get started. In fact I have recently found that working on top of old paintings can be a very liberating experience!
I tend to build a painting up in layers, dripping and splashing paint, as well as more definite mark making, and from there I let the process lead me. Invariably the painting ends up being quite different from my original vision, but that is part of the excitement of it – seeing where it leads me.

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Hitchwood 2 – Gill Ayre

What are you working on at the moment?

Over the past couple of years at least I have been making work inspired by trees, but it seems I may be coming out of the woods and my recent inspiration has been the unique coastline of the east coast of England, specifically the salt marshes and reed beds of North Norfolk and parts of Suffolk.

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Saltmarsh storm – Gill Ayre

What is the most asked question about your work?

The most asked question about my work is ‘Who or What inspires you?’
As I have said, the natural world is my source of inspiration:
the curves of a particular landscape; the tractor lines through wheat fields, or recently ploughed farmland; the receding layers of woods and hills to the horizon; the delicate tracery of branches in winter; trees receding in the mist in a dense woodland; dark clouds bleeding rain from their tattered edges; the vanishing point where sea merges with sky; sunlight and shadows playing on waves on the beach; a stormy sky against a bright field of yellow – all these things light me up and inspire me.
With regards to ‘who’ inspires me – well many people. Turner, of course, with his absolute mastery of light and atmosphere – in particular his unfinished work, which demonstrate where his interests really lay, before he added the ‘required’ subject matter to satisfy the expectations of the time. However there are numerous other artists whose work inspires me, some well known, some less so, and many of my artist friends – Kurt Jackson, Lewis Noble, Hughie O’Donoghue, Maggie Hamblin, Ian McIver, Barbara Rae, John Virtue …and the list goes on!

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Sketchbook Cley marshes – Gill Ayre

What are the benefits and/or pitfalls of working in a group studio space?

I love working in a group studio space, with other artists. Previously, I was fortunate to have had a 5 year fellowship with Digswell Arts, and had a studio at the Forge in Digswell with other 9 artists and 10 printmakers. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and learnt the value of shared studios – you can learn so much from being alongside other artists, and watching their practice develop and change can be really inspiring.
So when I left I was determined to find a space I could share with others and was lucky enough to find a space which I share with fellow artists, and friends, Jo Howe and Karen Picton. We all bounce off each other, encourage each other, give constructive critiques of each others work, and spend a lot of time chatting over cups of tea! What’s not to like?

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Marsh reflections – Gill Ayre

What do you hope to gain from showing at Art Fair East?

I feel that Art Fair East is an important development for the East of England and really want to support it. Exhibiting at an art fair is a great way to improve your profile as an artist, and is great opportunity to get feedback on current work, and meet and network with other artists and galleries. However, obviously the best feedback of all is to sell some work!

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