Artist Biography - Sandra Blow
Sandra Blow's works is often on a large scale and consists of paintings and screenprint abstracts with collage elements which are often made up from cheap discarded materials such as sawdust, cut-out strips of old canvas, plaster and torn paper. The use of such materials is designed to create an expressive informality and promote a natural, organic feeling. Her works have a tac...tile as well as visual emphasis on surface, and her use of simple large geometric shapes lends a feeling of expansiveness and dynamism.
Sandra Blow was born in London in 1925, the daughter of a Kent fruit farmer whose orchards supplied retailers in Covent Garden. She left school at 15 and in 1940 entered St Martin's School of Art. Subsequently she studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1946 to 1947, and then at the Academy of Fine Arts, Rome from 1947 to 1948, where she met Alberto Burri, who was a significant influence on her work for the rest of her career.
Despite her youth, Blow was at the forefront of the abstract art movement in Britain during the 1950s. Blow’s first solo exhibition was at Gimpel Fils in 1951, the leading London gallery with associations with St Ives artists like Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Peter Lanyon. She continued to exhibit regularly there until the mid-sixties as well as participated in many international group exhibitions from an early stage. These included; Young British Painters, at The Art Club, Chicago (1957), which subsequently toured the USA for two years; and the Venice Biennale — Young Artists Section (1958). Participation in major displays of contemporary British art saw her work collected in Italy, Holland, Germany, the United States and later Australasia establishing the international profile that her unique work warranted. She won the International Guggenheim Award in 1960 and won second prize at the third John Moores exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in 1961.
In 1960, having returned to the capital, Blow acquired a large studio at Sydney Close in Kensington, where she worked for the next 24 years. In 1961 she started a 14-year stint teaching at the Royal College of Art. Although painters like Jennifer Durrant, Gillian Ayres and Joan Mitchell shared with Blow ambitious scale and expressive dynamism, she stands alone as the earliest and most original woman painter in Britain able to challenge the bar-room "macho" cult associated with free, informal abstract painting.
In moving to St Ives during the mid-1990s, Blow came full circle, reinvigorating a Cornish art scene bereft of the glories she had sampled 35 years before. She exhibited locally but also fulfilled her obligations as a Royal Academician, participating in every Summer Exhibition at Burlington House, where she enjoyed a retrospective in 1994 at the newly built Sackler Galleries.
Her uncompromising approach pushed printmaking techniques to new boundaries with the introduction of Hessian, film and cloth; the prints are almost sculptural.
Sandra Blow was appointed Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art in 1973. She lived and worked in Cornwall.