Frank Avray Wilson

Frank Avray Wilson “High Red”, 1967.

After having the pleasure of offering and successfully selling a body of his works in 2018 on behalf of his heirs, Frank Avray Wilson returns to Lots Road Auctions with an oil on board from the Sixties with the same provenance.

His market has got even stronger in recent years - Whitford Fine Art in St James’s presenting a solo show on the artist, not long after LRA auctioned its first selection, and Christie’s selling 1959 abstract for £15,000 – with a particular appetite for early works such as “High Red”, to be auctioned on the forthcoming 22nd March.

However, this has not always been the case. Since the 50s, Avray Wilson has been acclaimed as one of the most eminent representatives of Abstraction in Britain, with the recognition of art critics such as Lawrence Alloway, and his commercial fortune had been consequent in this and the following decade, with twelve personal exhibitions presented in major galleries across the UK and European capitals.

But then the 80s and 90s came along, with their desire for prosperity and luxury, well reflected in the huge success of the YBA, whose art could grant the visual immediate satisfaction requested by wealthy collectors. There was no place for the strong depths of Avray Wilson’s intellectual research in this age.

His production has, throughout the different stages of his career, always been focused on expressing a rendition of what links the experience of this World with other levels beyond it, or “Surreality” as he called it, and he found the answers laid in nature and science. In his pursuit, he was influenced by a childhood spent in the Mauritius, where he could directly observe and marvel at how mysteriously Nature could reach perfection creating dazzling crystals.

These early years’ fascination pushed him to study Biology at Cambridge, which enabled him to transpose his knowledge of the intricacy of life forms into “floralised art”, or art imitating nature. Despite later venturing deeper and deeper into Abstraction, he never entirely left figuration, albeit never adhering to realism, in his own words: “I find those still attempting to be Impressionists and Realists lacking inspiration (…). Although a totally abstract vitalist Expressionism became my essential pursuit from the early 50s (…) it makes no sense to me that artists should stick the exclusively abstract once they have got there. Reality is so rich and manifold.”[1]

In this sense “High Red” can be legitimately considered an example of perfect synthesis of Frank’s strive to reveal the nexus between terrestrial life and “hyper-vitality”, furthermore because it was accomplished probably at the highest point of his investigation, before disengaging from the art scene for a couple of decades after the loss of his older son.

“The uniqueness of a work of art is a mark of its cosmological significance, and that of the individual appreciating it.” F.A.W.

Daniela Guardiani

[1] F. Avray Wilson “Thinking about painting”, 1990, edited by Jo Fermon.

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