Having regard for Cézanne’s exemplary perseverance David Ainley is in art for the long haul. The distillation of ideas in painting through adopting procedural strategies with strong metaphorical associations absorbs him. The systems method he developed in the 1970s evolved from an engagement with the ‘Game of Life’ of the mathematician John Horton Conway. Since 1995 he has made paintings and drawings that question the aestheticization of landscape as scenery and its conventions of perception and representation. Mined and quarried places are the subject of reflections on histories of human labour often hidden from admirers of the spectacular and picturesque in landscape. Arising from his interest in the relationship between a prospect and the uncertainties of winning ore in mining he infected the rigorously pre-determined aspects of his earlier approach with intuitive procedures and qualitative judgements admitting more elements of surprise. Lengthy processes involving cutting and drawing through successive different monochrome layers echo the efforts of people who mined at a rate of a handspan a day to win lead from hard rock near his Derbyshire home, labours that correspond to the extraction of precious rare earths elsewhere today. Occasional paintings of the figure have a simplicity of form that acknowledges early Cycladic sculpture. His often deceptively simple works invite quiet contemplation. He says: “I have sought to make of Minimalism an art that is as multi-layered in content as are its sources of reference.”
Since his first solo exhibition at Ikon, Birmingham (1966) work by David Ainley has featured in many one-person shows including Extractive Industry, Westminster Art Reference Library (2017), London Art Fair (2016), Encounters, Southwell Minster (2012), Reservoirs of Darkness, Nottingham (2010). He was shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2000,2005,2017) and won the Derby City Open Exhibition (2004). Numerous other exhibitions include INGDiscerning Eye (2012), ‘Contemporary British Abstraction’, London (2015), ‘Contemporary Masters from Britain’ at Yantai Art Museum & Jiangsu Art Gallery, Nanjing (2017-2018), ‘Made in Britain: 82 Painters of the 21st Century’, National Museum, Gdansk, Poland (2019). He taught (1967-2016) fine art practice and theory, and art education, at universities including Nottingham, lecturing widely in the UK sometimes on materials and techniques for Winsor & Newton & Liquitex (2001-05). Entry in: Buckman, D (1998 & 2006) ‘Artists in Britain since 1945’.