Avril Wilson

Avril Wilson

arts research University of Brighton

Scholarly biography and interests

Avril Wilson lectures on MDes & BA(Hons) Design and Craft at the University of Brighton, where she is Area Leader for Metal and Year Tutor. She studied 3D Design at Brighton Polytechnic followed by an MA Ceramics at Cardiff School of Art and Design. She set up her practice in 1987 at Red Herring Studios Brighton and for 20 years made sculptural metalwork for public spaces and gallery exhibitions primarily in forged and fabricated steel. In 2004 Wilson was the first female artist-blacksmith to be awarded a bronze medal by The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in recognition for her contribution to architectural metalwork.

Wilson’s current studio practice and research interests explores how the interplay between image, material and process affect interpretation of place and notions of identity. 

Recent work, produced between 2010 and 2013 for two solo exhibitions, incorporates photography, drawing and making 3D objects. The work primarily investigates a relationship between material status and records of place often related to her connection to Belfast, Northern Ireland.

A trans-disciplinary approach to teaching and learning underpins her engagement with course development and teaching strategy which has been informed by undertaking a CETLD research project ‘See What Happens - the value of creative experimentation through materials’. (2007 - 09 co-project leader with Cynthia Cousens).

Avril Wilson’s studio practice considers how the interplay between image, material and process affect interpretation of place and notions of identity.

Over a ten year period Wilson made a series of major public commissions all of which focused on boundaries and points of access. In 2000 she was commissioned to create a 400m long and 3m high sculptural railing and four gateways for The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. It replaces a security wall that was erected between the hospital and the Falls Road during ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Entitled ‘Life Span’ the railings represent a celebration of life. 

Reflecting further on the significance of the physical and personal relationships we hold between one place and another, Wilson recently presented a body of new work in two solo exhibitions; ‘Somewhere’ at the Otter Gallery, University of Chichester and ‘Threshold’ at R Space Gallery in Belfast. 

The work primarily explores a relationship between records of place and material status fluctuating between the universal and local; the global (objective) perspective to psycho-geographic (subjective) perspective, often related to her connection to Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

Perceived and physical boundaries in relation to maps and landscape are significant to the work in which Wilson connects images and objects that explore ideas around identity and place, post Good Friday Agreement. This is relevant both in terms of social divisions created within the topography of the city and the point from which a landscape is viewed - (such as a series of work based on photographs, taken from the edge of a hillside on the outskirts of Belfast, recording Wilson’s first view of the city she grew up in, from a viewpoint which was for many years restricted from public access and used for security surveillance). The notion of ‘no-mans-land’ as a place of exclusion and shared access is considered in a series of photographic images and material interventions focused on closed ‘peace-line’ checkpoints and ‘interface’ roads in Belfast.

Wilson’s work incorporates photography, drawing and making 3D objects through which the physicality and association of various materials in different states in relation to image is considered.Drawing as a process of provisional enquiry is explored through transient material and transfer of image between layers by tracing, cutting and piercing. 

Research activity

Avril Wilson recently presented new work in two solo exhibitions; ‘Somewhere’ at the Otter Gallery, University of Chichester and ‘Threshold’ at R Space Gallery, Belfast Northern Ireland. This work, produced between 2010 and 2013, incorporates photography, drawing and 3D objects and primarily explores a relationship between records of place and material status. 

During three visits to Belfast, a series of photographs were taken around the ‘interface’ and boundary areas of Belfast which formed a starting point for material and process intervention. Images were altered throughinfluence of light, adjusted focus or through intrusion of material. Much of the work includes dense black soot which is used to obliterate areas of an image. In a series of 2D and 3D pieces, Wilson explored the landmass boundary of Ireland and the United Kingdom when that shape is transformed into a physical line through the use of different materials and handwork processes and suspended, stretched or compressed within a space.

Other major work include public commissions: ‘Life Span’ (in collaboration with Bruce Williams) - perimeter sculptural railings and gates for the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, 2000, funded by The Millennium Commission; Railings and Gateway for Swindon Dance Studio, 1997; Sculptural Gateway for The Hawthorns Urban Wildlife Centre, The Common, Southampton, 1995; and a series of architectural spandrels for Banbury Town Centre, 1993. Work is held in public collections including; Goodwood Sculpture Park; Crafts Council; Hove Museum and Art Gallery; and East Sussex County Council. 

Pedagogical research

2007 - 2009

CETLD Research Fellow, University of Brighton, ’See What Happens - the value of creative experimentation in materials’.

Experimentation is widely recognised as being fundamental to developing an individual, agile and sustainable creative practice. This research analyses and evaluates the role of experimentation through materials in the creative designing and making of three dimensional objects and artefacts. It also aims to strengthen its place within the Higher Education curricula in Art and Design. The research focuses on student and professional attitudes and engagement with material experimentation: how they define it, the methods they use and the value they place on it; in order to establish how it can be best supported educationally.

Co-project leader with Cynthia Cousens. The team also includes Patrick Letschka (UoB), and Professor Hans Stofer (RCA).

Exhibitions

2013

‘Threshold’ an exhibition of drawings and sculptures exploring borders and ‘interface areas‘ around the city of Belfast. R-Space Gallery, Lisburn, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

‘Somewhere’ an exhibition of drawings and sculptures that explores how the interplay between image, material and process affect interpretation of place and notions of identity. Otter Gallery, University of Chichester.

2005 - 20012 (Public Collections)

A series of ecclesiastical candelabras and altar screen commissioned by St Michael and All Saints Church, Brighton

1999

'Decadence? Views from the edge of the century', Craft Council Gallery, London

1996

'FeMale', new work by five woman blacksmiths, The Collection Gallery, Ledbury

1995

'Out Of This World' Craft Council Gallery, London

1993

‘Points of Presence’ solo exhibition, Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham

Books

Peter Parkinson, Forged Architectural Metalwork. Crowood, 2006.

Funding

  • 2007-2009 Funded Research Fellow at the University of Brighton
  • Arts Council, 2005-07. Engaged in a period of professional development involving visual and contextual research and critical dialogue. This was funded through the Arts Council, ETA Makers Mentoring Scheme

Awards

  • In 2004 Avril Wilson was the first woman blacksmith to be awarded a bronze medal by The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in recognition for her contribution to architectural metalwork