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Avril Wilson’s art practice research incorporates an expanded approach to drawing that connects diverse aspects of her work through the use of different materials and mediums, including metalworking.
Avril’s key research themes of identity and place, personal histories and notions of perceived and physical boundaries are explored through both site-based work and drawings. In her work she investigates material meaning, craft, maps and landscape.
A recurring concern with points of access and boundaries can be seen across Avril’s public commissioned work and her gallery exhibitions. For example, in 2000 Avril was commissioned (with artist Bruce Williams) to create a 400 meter long sculptural railing and gateways for The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. It replaced 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. Having grown up in Belfast the site for this commission was very significant to Avril both politically and personally. The piece prompted a gradual but profound change in the way Avril thought about and made work and marked the beginning of a new, experimental way of working.
Avril explores ideas around identity and place, reflecting on the physical and personal relationships we hold between one place and another and creating a psychogeographic perspective. This focuses in particular on her relationship with the city of Belfast and Northern Ireland.
In 2013, two solo exhibitions ‘Somewhere’ (University of Chichester) and ‘Threshold’ (Belfast, Northern Ireland) connect a series of images and objects that explore aspects of Northern Ireland, post the Good Friday Agreement. Concepts of perceived and physical boundaries in relation to maps and landscape are important in this work. Social divisions created within the topography of the city and the point from which a landscape is viewed also come into play.
The notion of ‘no-mans-land’ as a paradoxical place of exclusion and shared access is considered in a series of collaged images and material interventions focused on closed ‘peace-line’ checkpoints. In other work originating from ‘interface’ roads in Belfast themes around duality are explored and through a series of images taken from the edge of a hillside on the outskirts of the city, record the first view of the city Avril grew up in from a viewpoint which for many years was restricted from public access and used for security surveillance.
This body of work was initiated through an intensive period of material and process experimentation which looked at the physicality and association of various materials in relation to image. Avril’s processes of inquiry include drawing, photography and making 3D objects, exploring materials such as metal, soot, graphite and oil paint, and revealing image between layers through processes like tracing, cutting and piercing. Ideas of residue and emergence emerge from process, extending the possibility of meaning in the work.
Experimenting through materials and working with hand-making processes is an important aspect of Avril’s art practice research and also underpins her pedagogic practice. A CETLD research project, ‘See What Happens - the value of creative experimentation through materials’ (Cousens, Wilson. 2009), set out to analyse and evaluate the role of experimentation through materials in the creative designing and making of three dimensional objects and artefacts and to strengthen its place within the Higher Education curricula in Art and Design.
Avril is a Senior Lecturer on MDes & BA(Hons) 3D 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 art practice in 1987 at Red Herring Studios Brighton making sculptural metalwork for public spaces and gallery exhibitions primarily in forged and fabricated steel.
Avril’s major public commissioned work focusing on boundaries and points of access includes: ‘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. Her work is held in public collections including; Goodwood Sculpture Park; Crafts Council; Hove Museum and Art Gallery; and East Sussex County Council. 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.
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).
Master, South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education (Cardiff School of Art)
15 Sep 1984 → 1 Apr 1986
Award Date: 1 Oct 1985
Bachelor, University of Brighton
15 Sep 1981 → 11 Jun 1984
Award Date: 11 Jun 1984