Note: Jean Spencer (1942 - 1998) was in her second year as a student at the Bath Academy of Art when her tutors, Malcolm Hughes and John Ernest, introduced her to the concepts and practice of systematised constructive abstraction. This became the focus of her work for the rest of her life. After leaving Bath she embarked on an art teaching career, spending twenty years with Bulmershe College in Reading where she eventually became Head of Department. From 1988 she taught at the Slade where she was appointed Reader in Fine Art in 1995. As well as teaching, she was active in the organisation of discussion groups, exhibitions and workshops for Exhibiting Space (a 1980s group of young artists of many disciplines) and Countervail, which she co-founded with the sociologist Elizabeth Chaplin to promote a group of women artists. Spencer held her first solo exhibition at the Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford in 1965 and in 1969 joined the Systems Group, co-founded by Jeffrey Steele and her lifelong partner (later husband) Malcolm Hughes.
Much of Spencer's early work took the form of white reliefs in which the rhythm of shapes and forms, organised according to mathematical rules, was defined by the fall of light and shadow. In the late 1970s her work changed as she explored the colour investigations and theorising of earlier artists in the constructivist tradition, including Malevich. Colour then became a key preoccupation; her paintings retained a geometrical basis but grafted onto this were combinations of colour from a distinctive personal palette she developed. In these works bands or blocks of colour, the intensity and tonal values of which have been meticulously calculated, are arranged to create a sort of visual dialogue.
Sir Nicholas Serota was also responsible for the selection and exhibition of Jean Spencer's work at Tate Britain in 1999.