Sabrina: Gillian Ayres, Tracey Emin, Pam Evelyn, Caroline Jackson, Francesca Mollett, Katy Moran, Victoria Morton, Daisy Parris, Hayley Tompkins, Michaela Yearwood-Dan. Curation by Russell Tovey.

19 November - 17 December 2022

Opening Saturday 19th November from 6 - 9pm. All welcome. 


Sim Smith is proud to present Sabrina, curated by Russell Tovey, a group exhibition of nine female and non-binary contemporary abstract artists working in the UK today alongside a painting, from where the exhibition takes its title, by Gillian Ayres from the 1970's. The exhibition is an opportunity to witness and start to understand the topography of British abstract expressionist painting now, explored through a female and non-binary outlook whilst also looking back to a time where female abstraction was not as celebrated but will have paved the way for the future generations on show in this exhibition.


This exciting group show brings together intergenerational artists at varying stages in their careers, exploring everything from abstraction's formal qualities to its expressive messages. The works range from the non-representational, exploring essences of memories, moods, impulses, disturbances, and triumphs alongside works which start to play with suggestions of figuration, landscape, and nature. Beautiful, ethereal, demanding, and gritty, these are exceptional works that have ignited a thirst and hunger for this new movement across the globe.


Gillian Ayres died in 2018 with a dedicated career spanning nearly 70 years. Her abstract work and teachings have inspired so many of today's artists working within the energy of abstract expressionism. For me, the Ab-Ex movement is very much associated with America, within a very much white male dominated space. Without enough respect at the time, we also discover that a "Ninth Street Women" female art movement was existing alongside their male counterparts, post-war female artists dealing with abstract expressionism in painting. Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler to name a few, but these artists belonged to a heavily influenced New York art scene, which Great Britain didn't feel companion to. Gillian Ayres was working alongside these artists around the same time, yet being on the other side of the Atlantic she felt removed from these integral conversations. I may be completely wrong about this, but I feel Ayres, a working female artist in post-war Britain, was doing so in an almost singular fashion. It's difficult to ascertain any other female artists who were able to establish themselves in such a way as Gillian Ayres did at the time, which is testament to her ability.


Cut to 2022 and we now witness a new movement. Women and non-binary artists, British based, are shaping the landscape of painting, working hard to secure a new contemporary location and dialogue for Ab-Ex. I've discovered multiple artists over the last decade, many of which are currently showing in this group exhibition, who are female/nonbinary and British based and working solely in abstraction. These artists are slipping a baton from out of the hands of these mid-century New York based Ab-Ex ladies and transporting that energy into the now, Great Britain, over 70 years later.


The most exciting curatorial challenge for this exhibition was to bring Gillian Ayres into the same dialogue as the British based artists that are responding to the world now. This is an intergenerational conversation, respectfully curated to allow some of the best artists working today to shine and vibrate, while they respond in their position from the lineage of a greater art history.

- Russell Tovey, Curator, October 2022.


The exhibition is an invitation to look, at the paintings but also the possibilities of paint, at where it is now but also at its linage in order to provide some context. The works in this show have the capability to make us feel. Emotive and primal they are linked to our bodies and their responses; we become lost within them and somehow find exactly where we are meant to be.


With thanks to The Estate of Gillian Ayres and Marlborough London and all of the artists' representing galleries for making this exhibition possible.