Nancy Spero, 'Carnival' Photo: John Bodkin/DawkinsColour Hung by Stephen Chambers and Stephen Farthing, this enormous room is dominated at one end by six exuberant paintings. The work of Gillian Ayres, who was 80 this year, these expansive and celebratory images have been produced by a resilient artist who shows no sign of slowing down. On the contrary: they are filled with defiant vitality, and within their overall abstraction references to trees, moons, stars and idyllic landscapes can be detected. Next to them, six portraits by Humphrey Ocean explore people he knows. All painted with gouache on paper, they avoid the pedantry of detailed portraiture in favour of a supple, freely worked approach.
Chambers has included the American artist Nancy Spero,who died recently, because ‘she takes an inventive meander, feminist without being strident’. Spero’s collage shows a totemic woman with a tree growing out of her head (left). Works by Tom Phillips nearby look free and abstract from distance, but close-to they turn out to be very detailed and carefully structured, whereas Elizabeth Magill’s distressed landscape is wildly brushed with smears of hot orange. Its urgency finds an echo in Tony Bevan’s gigantic painting of his own head looking up, as if yearning for reassurance in a hostile world.
A deep red painting by Chambers himself looks very mysterious: a boy stares across at a boat garlanded with flowers. But the boat seems to have been transported indoors, and the word ‘Lyon’ is written on its side. In John Bellany’s paintings, the figures seem transfixed by a fish suspended in the sky. And Ed Ruscha juxtaposes a mountain with a blanket. But the ‘raw’ theme is dramatised by Georg Baselitz, who makes a great splash of blue fall over a helpless, upside-down dog.