No. 5 1969
oil and mixed media on canvas
62 by 77 cm
framed: 78 x 93.5 cm
in a walnut tray frame under non reflective UV glass and perspex backed
signed and dated 69 on the reverse
New Art Centre, London, where acquired by the family of the owner in 1969, and thence by descent;
Private Collection, London until 2021
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Blow was at the forefront of the post-war avant-garde from an extremely young age, catalysed by studying in Rome and taking Alberto Burri as her lover in 1947. On her return to London, the influential 1950s dealers Gimpel Fils held her first exhibition in 1951; she exhibited with Paolozzi, Pasmore and Adams in Rome in 1952; and had her first solo exhibition in New York a few years later, before being chosen to exhibit in the British Pavillion at the Venice Biennale alongside William Scott, Alan Davie and Kenneth Armitage in 1958.
For Sandra Blow, and so many others of her generation, European art was the greatest influence. It was contemporary Italian art that was a foremost influence on Blow’s works of this period, particularly due to her close friendship with Alberto Burri. Unlike Lanyon, Heron and Tilson who travelled to Italy in the 1950s, Blow was studying with Burri in Italy in the late Forties.
She travelled throughout Italy and Spain and discovered at first hand the European culture. While Blow did not produce work of her own in Italy, she learnt a great deal from the Italian master of "art informal". Burri worked in the same vein as Tapies, Dubuffet and Afro, using a variety of rough materials into their painted surface such as earth, ash, cement and charred sacking. His example had a powerful effect on the direction of Sandra Blow's own work. She used his materials and began to distil her own form of reductive expressionism, preoccupied with space, matter and movement. American art was also important, and indeed, along with artists as diverse as Alan Davie, Peter Lanyon and William Gear, Blow was to have solo shows in New York in 1956-57.
Sandra Blow photographed by Ida Kar in her studio 1955
“No, the tea stain would stain the canvas first. It wouldn't stain the glue if I put the glue on, but the ash, the glue would hold the ash. Usually I would think the ash was put over the tea stains, and I would use very thin white bands on whatever areas of colour, or white. So it was this white paint, ash, and tea, and glue. But they were both economically kind of, in a way, necessary at that time, but also it was a reaction against using a heavy thick kind of, with relying on the effects of materials or sacking and painting a picture devoid of a sort of surface..”
Sandra Blow talking to Andrew Lambeth 1996, British Library Recording C466/42/01/-07
After moving to St. Ives in 1957, Patrick Heron offered Blow accommodation at his home, Eagles Nest, from where she found herself a cottage to rent at nearby Tregerthen. Originally used by D.H. Lawrence in 1916, this cottage had a long association with the arts and was adjacent to the cottage where Trevor Bell and Karl Wescke lived.
Blow did not stay long in Cornwall returning to London to teach at the Royal College of Art in 1960 where she was a tutor for 14 years. She won 2nd prize in the John Moores exhibition in Liverpool. She later returned to St Ives in 1994 relocating her studio to live there permanently until her death.