Sandra Blow was born in London in 1925. She studied at St. Martin's (1941-6) and then at the Royal Academy Schools, before leaving for Italy, where she met and was hugely influenced by Alberto Burri. Burri introduced Sandra to the potentials of collage and the tensions between textures therein. Her association with her mentor underpinned Sandra's work throughout her life though she distilled her own form of reductive abstract expressionism, preoccupied with space, matter and movement. Fuelled also by the Renaissance principles of geometry, light and scale, Sandra set about treating form with its own innate reality and rejecting subject matter in terms of representation.
"I can remember that extraordinary sense of shedding everything, of leaving all the known tracks and then just looking for something that could be my own, of interpreting the actual structure of the painting which seems to connect with abstract-structure and space - and find my own language in it!"
It was never easy to make it as a female artist, and in the 50's it wasn't easy to be an abstractionist either. But Gimpel Fils took Blow on in 1951, gave her regular exhibitions, and organised her first one-woman show in New York. Apart from the annual summer show at the Royal Academy, Blow also exhibited at the Venice Biennale and, in 1961 won second prize at the John Moores Exhibition in Liverpool. For 14 years from 1961 she was a tutor in the painting school of the Royal College of Art where she was appointed an honorary fellow.
From 1957 onwards Sandra made numerous working visits to the West Penwith Peninsula, often enough to be included in the overview at the Tate Gallery in 1985 called 'St Ives 1939-64'. There she showed alongside artists more readily associated with the area including Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon, Wilhemina Barnes-Graham, Patrick Heron and Terry Frost. In 1994 Blow went back to live in St Ives permanently.
Blow maintained that events in her personal life often affected the appearance of her painting, not, of course, in an illustrational way, but in the tensions and clashes of the jostling marks on the canvas. She had the rare ability to make small works with a sense of limitless space and big works as compactly organised as a small drawing.
Blow was an amazing colourist and the open and joyous lyricism of her paintings insured her position as one of the leaders of the post war British abstract movement.
Sandra Blow died in August 2006.