Alison Wilding, ‘Acanthus Asymmetrically’

Alison Wilding is an English sculptor and interpreter of form. Her work has been shown and collected all around the world. From Serpentine Gallery, MoMA NY, retrospective at Tate Liverpool in 1991 to her most recent exhibition ‘Acanthus Asymmetrically,’ Wilding is justifiably considered one of the most important sculptors. She is also two times Turner Prize nominee and she became a Royal Academician in 1999.

Baby Shimmy, 2014

Wilding’s ‘Acanthus Asymmetrically’ will be on view at Offer Waterman, London and will include 12 new and recent sculptures, alongside a selection of works on paper and prints. Offer Waterman gallery space is located in a house that used to be William Morris’s showroom, and on occasion, Wilding is making a wall piece that uses her version of his famous Acanthus wallpaper together with an additional, slightly perverse object. And even though one part of her exhibition title comes from Morris, the asymmetrically simply comes from her interest in asymmetry.

We sat down with the artist to discuss who she makes her art for, materials and expectations.


Alison, how old were you when you first started practicing art?

I was 25 when I left the Royal College of Art in 1973, but it wasn’t until 1980 that I would really have described myself as an artist.

What was the most influential/significant thing in your life that made you take the path you did?

There was no significant event that made me want to be an artist. I just wanted to go to art school, and it was when I began to work in the plaster room at Nottingham College of Art on my Foundation course in 1967 that I became completely enthralled in the struggle of making a completely new object for the first time.

What kind of imagery did you start with?

I began with amorphous vaguely abstract forms that were badly made and often fell over. I think I have made progress since then.

You are considered as one of the most important sculptors of your generation. Have you ever felt too pressured by the critics/people expectations?

I’m not aware that anyone has any particular expectations of me! I do deliver on time, though.

Do you make art for yourself or for other people?

Yes, I make my work for myself.

How does one series end and another begin?

Although the drawings I make tend to be in series, and a series will end when I feel I have exhausted whatever it was I was trying to do – my sculpture doesn’t work like that. It’s much more diverse and doesn’t progress seamlessly…. I like to think it’s continually evolving. I don’t want to stay in the same place and repeat what I already know, but years later I can go back and fill in the gaps.

What was the longest period you invested in an artwork?

Harbour 1994 – 6 took two years to make. Arena 1999 – 2000 was in storage for 16 years before it was exhibited – that was a kind of investment on my part (not financially) as I always knew that eventually it would be shown.

What was the weirdest and most difficult material you’ve ever worked with?

What is weird? I may have some quite weird thoughts, but materials are not intrinsically weird. I once tried to make a tornado, it didn’t work.

Have you ever grown your own material?

Never grown my own material.

What do you consider as your biggest accomplishment regarding your career?

Biggest accomplishment would be carrying on, being solvent, and however slowly, still making and showing new work.

You are two times Turner Prize nominee. How did the nominations change your world, if?

I am not defined by being nominated for the Turner prize, although it’s often the first thing that is written in a short bio. It’s a bit of an albatross. I remember it being exciting at the time with masses of overheated interest and then nothing.

Do you think that the art world is too male dominated?

Yes, probably, but it was far worse when I was a young artist. Not being a man I can’t answer that question, but maybe when I was younger I lacked a killer instinct, and nowadays, being well known or not is not something I think about much.

Do you feel there is much psychology involved in making of art?

Yes, it’s possible to play mind games with objects, but best not to talk about it.

You once said you have and admiration for clothes. Tell me more. What kind of admiration, what kind of clothes, designers?

Although I think fashion is ridiculous, I do like clothes, and I do love Alexander MacQueen’s clothes because they are sculptures.

How do you spend your free time?

I wish I spent more time mudlarking.

Alison Wilding, ‘Acanthus Asymmetrically’ will be on view from May 26th until June 21st, 2017 at Offer Waterman, London.