Gillian Ayres OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) was one of the most significant abstract painters to emerge in London during the postwar period. A disciple and vanguard of the taschist style, a non-geometric abstract style that developed in postwar Europe, Ayres was inspired by abstract expressionist art in the United States and painted in a lyrical, gestural style that stood in contrast to the hard-edge forms of her contemporaries. Ayres’s career attests to her experimental spirit, as she switched from oil to acrylic paints for much of the 1960s and early 1970s—creating textured surfaces—only to later return to oil. In recent years, the artist has experimented with woodcuts, creating ebullient works evocative of Henri Matisse. Never didactic, her oeuvre illustrates an artist constantly experimenting with the possibilities of paint. “My paintings are about painting, about shape and color, not telling stories,” Ayres has said.
Danish artist and author Asger Jorn, along with Guy Debord, played a pivotal role in the early development of the revolutionary movement Situationist International. Jorn began his artistic career as a painter in Paris, and he became radicalized after joining the communist resistance movement during the Second World War. He played an integral part in launching a number of movements that combined the tenets of Marxism with artistic expression, including COBRA, the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, and later, after leaving Debord’s group, a breakaway Scandinavian movement called Second Situationist International. Jorn was incredibly prolific as an artist across all mediums, creating painting, sculpture, ceramics, and collage. In 1964 he was awarded, but turned down, the Guggenheim Award.
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist and activist. Ai grew up in the far north-west of China, where he lived under harsh conditions due to his father’s exile. As an activist, he has been openly critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights.