Frank Avray Wilson 1914-2009
Frank Avray Wilson was one of the first abstract expressionist painters in England. Born in Mauritius, of Anglo-Irish and French decent, Wilson spent the first seven years of his life on the Indian Ocean Island. After gaining a master’s degree in biology at the University of Cambridge, Frank Avray Wilson studied art in France and Norway. In 1953 he met a member of the progressive Free Painters Group, Denis Bowen, a painter influenced by Taschism (from the word tache or spot), a style of painting practiced in Paris after World War II until the 1950s. Wilson had his first solo show in 1954 at the Obelisk Gallery, London, later he and Dennis Bowen participated in the landmark exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in London in 1957 Metavisual, Tachiste, Abstract. Wilson produced some of the most dynamic abstract paintings of the post-war period in Britain. His work varies from spikey linear compositions and more spare and geometric ones. Through his art Wilson sought to ‘create a synthetic vitality, more living than life, the means of supplying our anti-vital, anti-human society with intense symbols’. The importance of his scientific background which is evident in his work is explained in his books, in particular Art in Life (1958), Art as Understanding (1963), Nature Regained (1977), Art as Revelation (1981). He also worked on stained glass and there is a triptych by him in the devotional room at Longdale School Birstall, aesthetically inspired by Matisse. Despite exhibiting in London and abroad Avray Wilson remained an outsider for most of his life and became increasingly recluse until the end.