De Grey Roger, Sandra Blow, London, Royal Academy opf Arts, 1994→
Bird Michael, Sandra Blow, London, Beaux Arts Gallery, 2009→
Bird Michael, Sandra Blow, London, Lund Humphries, 2011
Sandra Blow, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 14 July – 19 August 1979→
Sandra Blow, Tate St Ives, St Ives, 15 December 2001 – 10 March 2002
The daughter of a fruit vendor, this pioneer of abstract painting possessed a style that coupled geometric and organic forms, in the style of a colourist. Sandra Blow left school at the age of 15 to attend Saint Martin’s School of Art, where she studied with Ruskin Spear. Shortly after World War II, she studied at the Royal Academy of London, before spending the year of 1947 in Italy, where she discovered architecture and frescoes from the pre-Renaissance period. She met Alberto Burri, from whom she learned how to work with baser materials, such as canvas and tar. She introduced a new form of informal expression into British art through the use of scrap materials such as sawdust and plaster juxtaposed with traditional painting materials. Hence, the surfaces of her complex images are both visual and tactile. The balancing of proportion, tension and scale is part of her pictorial concerns. She began teaching at the Royal College of Art in 1961. After returning to London in the 1950s, S. Blow developed a calligraphic style in landscape drawing while maintaining the visual gestures seen in her paintings.
In Space and Matter, a 1959 painting which evokes a landscape, she used a mix of liquid cement and tar to create hues of ochre, brown, beige, black, and white. Her improvised approach to painting linked her to what Michel Tapié described as “informal art”. In the 1960s, she created collages inspired by the decorative works of Matisse. Later, her colourful and dynamic abstract paintings grew in size. Two large pictorial collages from 1988 and 1989, entitled Vivace and Glad Ocean, characterised her work. Vivace is made up of a large, red V symbol strewn with splashes of paint, while Glad Ocean noticeably takes on the same element in blue, obtained by propelling colour onto the canvas. “By throwing the paint at the canvas, a method that she might not have thought to use without the uninhibited example of the American abstract expressionists, she adapted [it] to an open and joyous lyricism,” stated Michael McNay (in The Guardian, 23-08-2006).