Sculptor Alison Wilding is known for her use of diverse materials—including metal, stone, and plastic—to explore space and the medium of sculpture.Read More
An alumna of London's Royal College of Art, Alison Wilding rose to prominence in the 1980s for her expansive and innovative experimentation with the sculptural object. The floor sculpture Dark Horse 1 (1983), for example, takes the form of a black cloth cut in a shape that mimics a flayed horse's skin; the flatness of its 'skin' contrasts with the solid white stone that acts as its head.
Another earlier Alison Wilding sculpture is Immersion (1988). Consisting of two brass parts, Immersion plays with different ways of embodying immersion: the cylindrical form is being 'immersed' in the second, wider form, while the glimmering inner brass surface of each element suggests a different immersion when opposed to its patinated metal exterior.
Opposites are frequent elements of Alison Wilding's work. For Assembly (1991), inspired by the wooden scaffolding she saw in the Hagia Sophia, the artist stacked golden-brown plastic stripes into a stepped structure. Its transparency, which creates a blurred impression from a distance, contrasts with its hard, opaque steel shell. Surface and materiality also play in Re-re-re-tread (2016), whose tapered wooden block appears rough next to the smooth and reflective tin disks between which it is sandwiched.
Many of Alison Wilding's sculptures suggest violence or conceal danger. Made from semi-transparent green acrylic, the nearly two-metre-tall Drowned (1993) offers a view of its surroundings through a subdued and coloured filter that evokes deep water submersion. In two sculptures from 2015, metal rings nest black fibreglass eggs. The imagery becomes ominous when paired with the titles: Cuckoo 1 and Cuckoo 2, in reference to the birds that push their competitors out of the nest.
Mesmer, Again—Alison Wilding's solo exhibition at Karsten Schubert London in 2020—revolves around the artist's 2016 sculpture Mesmer: a roughly W-shaped wooden structure held together by magnets. Also on view were new works, many from 2020, that continue the artist's engagement with diverse media and form. In Black Stripe, for example, a thin stripe of black paper is tightly wedged between two blocks of alabaster, while the delicate orb Gobstopper 5 consists of tangles made from silver wire.
Alison Wilding held one of her first major solo exhibitions at London's Serpentine Gallery in 1985 and was nominated for the Turner Prize twice—in 1988 and 1992. In recognition of her contribution to contemporary British art, Wilding was made a Royal Academician in 1999 and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2019.
Mesmer, Again, Karsten Schubert London (2020); Right Here and Out There, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-On-Sea, United Kingdom (2018); Alison Wilding, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2018); Acanthus, Asymmetrically, Offer Waterman, London (2017); Alison Wilding, Duveen Galleries, Tate Britain, London (2013).
We Are Here, Heong Gallery, Cambridge (2020); Dialectical Materialism: Aspects of British Sculpture since the 1960s, Karsten Schubert London (2019); What isn't here can't hurt you: Alison Wilding and Frances Richardson, Royal Society of Sculptors, London (2019); Making It: Sculpture in Britain 1977–1986, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield (2015); Shelagh Wakely: A View from a Window, Camden Art Centre, London (2014).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021