Born in London in 1930 Ayres realised she wanted to be a painter at an early age on discovering books on painters such as Van Goch, Gaugin, Cézanne and Monet in her school’s library. During the war she would cycle to the National Gallery where one picture a month was displayed - she was attracted to painting and it determined her life’s quest.
Ayres studied at Camberwell College of Arts and Crafts and by the mid 1950’s she became a pioneer of abstract painting in Britain, creating a body of work that would place her at the forefront of her generation. The ambitious scale of her paintings and their bold handling of paint enveloped the viewer in a powerful exploration of colour and space. She would apply oils and household paint, instinctively pouring, dripping and staining paint on to board.