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FRANK AVRAY WILSON A R T

6 DUKE STREET ST. JAMES’S LO N D O N S W 1 Y 6 B N TEL.+44(0)20 7930 9332 info@whitfordfineart.com w w w. w h i t f o r d f i n e a r t . c o m

F I N E

F I N E A R T

W H I T F O R D

WHITFORD


FRANK AVRAY WILSON A R T

6 DUKE STREET ST. JAMES’S LO N D O N S W 1 Y 6 B N TEL.+44(0)20 7930 9332 info@whitfordfineart.com w w w. w h i t f o r d f i n e a r t . c o m

F I N E

F I N E A R T

W H I T F O R D

WHITFORD


FRANK AVRAY WILSON Abstract Expressionist Paintings 1953–1963

19 October – 16 November 2018

All Works are for Sale

WHITFORD F I N E A R T

6 DUKE STREET ST. JAMES’S LONDON SW1Y 6BN +44 (0)20 7930 9332 info@whitfordfineart.com


CRYSTAL CLEAR

Frank Avray Wilson’s development as an artist could not be better explained as in the opening lines of his own publication Art as Revelation: The Role of Art in Human Existence (Centaur Press, 1981). Here he states that he has always sought for the relevance of the arts in Nature and in the human existence. Avray Wilson continues to explain that his search particularly deals with an experience that is derived from communion with beauty and harmonious order through all the arts and in the wonders of the natural world. Avray Wilson identified that the particular significance of that experience lies in the fact that whereas other levels of enjoyment in the arts can be accounted for by accepted beliefs, the ‘high’ or ‘peak’ experiences defy explanation because of the intensity and total otherness from ordinary human experience. Avray Wilson spent his childhood on the exotic island of Mauritius where he marvelled at the natural beauty of the island’s fauna, flora and crystalline minerals. As a child, Avray Wilson was regularly taken on trips to Africa and to Europe. As time came to make a decision about his future as a young adult, Avray Wilson enrolled at Cambridge University to study biology. Here, in 1935, Avray Wilson first experienced the fundamental vitality of a painted image whilst drawing some cells seen from a microscope and started to adopt concepts in physics to view reality. As such he concluded that human art could not have arisen without a long evolutionary antecedent and that human aesthetic sensitivities are nature-related. In his books and his paintings, Avray Wilson tried to demonstrate how the process of humanisation is intrinsically tied to the aesthetic sensitivity. It was his deep belief that people cannot properly be human unless artistic activity is manifest, and the measure of de-humanisation in any society, in any age, can be fairly accurately measured by the level of aesthetic sensitivity. According to Avray Wilson, the great social value of art is that even as a minority preoccupation it has a radiative influence, and there is no doubt that if even a few people truly accept the relevance of art and put it into practice, the present insensitive and increasingly inhuman can be reversed and the long work of healing and recovery can begin.

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Having experienced the holistic powers of art as a student at Cambridge University, Avray Wilson decided to pursue a career as a painter. By the early 1950s Avray Wilson was painting abstract gestural canvasses which positioned him as Britain’s only real Abstract Expressionist. Furthermore, Avray Wilson’s action painting was sourced in the interdisciplinary research of biology-physics-aesthetics, making his descriptions of his paintings in terms of ‘Floralised’, ‘Surreality’, ‘Hyper-Vitalism’, ‘Crystalline’, ‘Field’ and ‘Function’ hard to understand at first. Yet, Avray Wilson’s inner strength, skill for survival and multi-cultural background earned him a loyal following. In 1954, Obelisk Gallery hosted Avray Wilson’s first one-man show in London; one-man shows in Europe’s capital cities of Paris and Brussels followed. In London, Frank Avray Wilson was promoted by the Redfern Gallery who organised four one-man shows prior to 1962. The traumatic experience of losing his eldest son, in 1967, largely halted Avray Wilson’s painting activity. As a consequence, any present display of Avray Wilson’s works acts as a pristine capsule frozen in time and invites the viewer to engage in a dialogue with a past interval that represents an important art-historical contribution to Modern British Painting. An Jo FERMON, October 2018

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Frank Avray Wilson at work, with Maelstrom cat. 11 (unfinished) in the background, London, 1954

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1. Talisman 1954 Oil on hardboard 91 x 71 cm Dated verso 6


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2. Reactive Event 1960 Oil on canvas 76 x 156 cm Dated verso LITERATURE: FERMON, An Jo. Frank Avray Wilson: British Tachist. London, 2016, fig. 5, p. 20. 8


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3. Eruption 1960 Oil on canvas 152 x 75.5 cm Signed and dated lower left Dated verso 10


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4. Stellar Formation 1958 Oil on canvas 198 x 151 cm Dated and titled verso 12


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5. Myth Form 1959 Oil on canvas 117 x 91.5 cm Dated verso LITERATURE: FERMON, An Jo. Frank Avray Wilson: British Tachist. London, 2016, fig. 1, p. 10. 14


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6. Meeting 1956 Oil on canvas 202 x 76 cm Signed and dated verso 16


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7. Tribute to Carbon Atom 1958 Oil on canvas 183 x 60 cm Signed, dated and titled verso LITERATURE: FERMON, An Jo. Frank Avray Wilson: British Tachist. London, 2016, fig. 6, p. 21. 18


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8. Need c.1960 Oil on canvas 168 x 101.5 cm Signed upper right Exhibition label verso ‘Southport 1960’ 20


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9. Configuration in Yellow and Black 1959 Oil on canvas 182 x 122 cm Signed and dated lower right LITERATURE: FERMON, An Jo. Frank Avray Wilson: British Tachist. London, 2016, fig. 11, p. 29. 22


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10. Synthesis 1957 Oil on panel 150 x 122 cm LITERATURE: FERMON, An Jo. Frank Avray Wilson: British Tachist. London, 2016, fig. 15, p. 66. 24


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11. Maelstrom 1955–56 Oil on canvas 197 x 364 cm Dated verso EXHIBITED: 1986, Avray Wilson: Recent Work and Some Early Paintings, Warwick Arts Trust, London, no. 3. LITERATURE: Frank Avray Wilson, exhibition catalogue, Redfern Gallery, 1961, ill. FERMON, An Jo. Frank Avray Wilson: British Tachist. London, 2016, fig. 19, p. 72-73. 26


12. Conjugation 1954–60 Oil on canvas 89.5 x 122 cm Dated verso 1954/55/60 30


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13. Configuration in Ochre and Grey c.1960 Oil on canvas 60 x 85.5 cm

14. Reactive 1960 Oil on board 23 x 124 cm Signed and dated with initials lower right 32


15. Interactions Green (Miniature) c.1955 Oil on board 40.5 x 15.2 cm 33


16. Blue Constellation c.1954 Oil on canvas 152.5 x 76 cm 34


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17. Configuration in Green and Red 1959 Oil on canvas 183 x 60.5 cm Signed and dated lower right 36


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18. Reaction 1956 Oil on hardboard 122 x 92 cm Dated verso 38


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19. Meeting Point 1963 Oil on panel 153 x 122 cm Signed, dated and titled verso 40


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20. Thrusting Green 1958 Oil on board 25.3 x 17.8 cm Signed with initials lower right

21. Nucleating 1959 Oil on canvas 201 x 153 cm Dated verso 42


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FRANK AVRAY WILSON 1914–2009 1914 1927 1932-35 1936 1937-38 1938-47 1950 1951-53

1953 1956 1957 1958

1959 1962 1963 1965 1967 1976 1977 1980 1981 1985 1992 1995 2009

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Born on 5th May in Vacoas on the island of Mauritius. During a trip to France, introduced to the painting of Cézanne, the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists. Studied Biology at St. John’s College, Cambridge University. Marriage to Ivy Else Eckbo in Mauritius. Finished degree at Cambridge University. Spent war years in Mauritius. Returned to Europe. Using his 1940s technique to create hyper-vital images, to reflect the metaphysical level in Nature, in order to express symbolism that refers to a level of reality beyond reason and intellect. Realised that the move into the abstract was necessary for humans to become aware of ‘Surreality’, the highest point of evolution of the Creation far removed from the world of common appearances. Met Denis Bowen (1921-2006) of the Free Painters Group. Together with Denis Bowen and Halima Nalecz, founded the New Vision Centre Gallery, Marble Arch, London, a showcase for radical artistic expression. Studio at 6 Pembroke Studios, London W8. Lectured on art at Oxford University Arts Society (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) and for the British Council in London. Acquired a cottage as a studio and living accommodation in Box village, near Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire. Lived and painted in the countryside and London. Shown on Monitor, the BBC arts programme. Showed his films Art in an Atomic Age, Adventure in Abstract and Experiments in Abstract to full audiences at the ICA. Moved to Jaynes Court in Bisley, Gloucestershire. Publication of Art as Understanding (Routledge & Kegan Paul). Lectured at Society of Aesthetics, London. BBC Horizon Team films Avray Wilson in his octagonal ‘cockpit studio’ at Jaynes Court, Bisley. Eldest son, Austin Raymond died of leukaemia, aged twenty-eight. Traumatised, Avray Wilson withdrew from the art market for two decades. Publication of Alchemy as a Way of Life (C.W. Daniel Co.) and of Nature Regained (Branden Press). Publication of Crystal and Cosmos (Coventure). Acquired 38 Royal Avenue, London SW3. Publication of Art as Revelation (Centaur Press). Publication of The Work of the Creation (Coventure). Moved to Rivermead Court, London SW6. Publication of Seeing is Believing (The Book Guild). Passed away on 1st January.


SOLO EXHIBITIONS 1944 King Haakon Fund, Mauritius. 1950 King Haakon Fund, Mauritius. 1954 Obelisk Gallery, London. Frank Avray Wilson: Recent Paintings, AIA Gallery, London. 1955 L’Institut français, London. 1956 Galerie Internationale, Paris. Paintings by Avray Wilson, The Redfern Gallery, London. 1957 Avray Wilson, Galerie Helios Art, Brussels. Frank Avray Wilson: Paintings, The Redfern Gallery, London. 1958 Frank Avray Wilson, Galerie Craven, Paris. New Paintings by Avray Wilson, The Redfern Gallery, London. 1960 Avray Wilson: Recent Gouaches, The Redfern Gallery, London 1961 Avray Wilson: Recent Paintings, The Redfern Gallery, London. Avray Wilson, Galerie Fricker, Paris. Frank Avray Wilson: Recent Work, Warwick Arts Trust, London. 1986 Frank Avray Wilson: Recent Paintings and Work from the 50s to the 80s, The 1995 Redfern Gallery, London. Frank Avray Wilson, Paintings, Gouaches and Prints, The Redfern Gallery, London. 2002 Frank Avray Wilson: Early Works, Whitford Fine Art, London. 2003 Frank Avray Wilson: The Vital Years, Paisnel Gallery, London. 2011 Frank Avray Wilson: British Tachist, Whitford Fine Art, London. 2016 Frank Avray Wilson: Abstract Expressionist Paintings 1953-1963, Whitford Fine Art, 2018 London.

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS British Museum, London Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, USA Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum City Art Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery, Leeds Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea Leeds Art Gallery Leicester Museum and Art Gallery National Museum of Wales, Cardiff Northampton Museum and Art Gallery Southampton City Art Gallery Toledo Art Gallery, Ohio, USA Victoria and Albert Museum, London Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

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FURTHER READING AVRAY WILSON, Frank. Art as Revelation. The Role of Art in Human Existence. Frontwell, Sussex, 1981. FERMON, An Jo. Frank Avray Wilson: British Tachist. London, 2016.

Š2018 An Jo Fermon Published by Whitford Fine Art, London, UK All artwork Š2018 Estate of Frank Avray Wilson All rights reserved under international copyright conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Exhibition coordination: Gabriel Toso, Whitford Fine Art, London Photography: Mario Bettella, London Design and Production: Artmedia Press Ltd, London Printed and bound in UK ISBN 978-1-9996593-1-8

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FRANK AVRAY WILSON A R T

6 DUKE STREET ST. JAMES’S LO N D O N S W 1 Y 6 B N TEL.+44(0)20 7930 9332 info@whitfordfineart.com w w w. w h i t f o r d f i n e a r t . c o m

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FRANK AVRAY WILSON A R T

6 DUKE STREET ST. JAMES’S LO N D O N S W 1 Y 6 B N TEL.+44(0)20 7930 9332 info@whitfordfineart.com w w w. w h i t f o r d f i n e a r t . c o m

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Profile for Whitford Fine Art

Frank Avray Wilson: Abstract Expressionist Painting 1953 - 63  

'Frank Avray Wilson was one of the first British abstract expressionist painters' - The Independent While the art world is rediscovering th...

Frank Avray Wilson: Abstract Expressionist Painting 1953 - 63  

'Frank Avray Wilson was one of the first British abstract expressionist painters' - The Independent While the art world is rediscovering th...

Profile for whitford