Alison Wilding, 'Drone 4', 2012. Acrylic inks on paper. 20 x 25.5 cm. (AW 345D). So varied is Alison Wilding’s visual language that, unlike many other of Britain’s pre-eminent sculptors, her work cannot be reduced to a single style or process. Predominantly abstract, sometimes figurative, the Academician’s pieces are, however, always alert to real world associations, through both their shapes and their materials, which have included unconventional substances such as beeswax, silk and fossils.
Her series of ten works on paper ‘Drone’, currently on view at London’s Karsten Schubert gallery, focuses squarely on a recognisable form, the eponymous unmanned aircraft used to bomb targets by remote control. The shape and size of the drone is constant across the different works: a bird-like silhouette – with the look of a mythical creature – produced in blue or brown-red pigment on a sky washed with green, grey or turquoise.
Alison Wilding, 'Drone 1', 2012 Acrylic inks on paper. 20 x 26.5 cm. (AW 342D).
Alison Wilding, 'Drone 9', 2012. Acrylic inks and collage on paper. 27.5 x 30.5 cm. (AW 350D). In one of the works, red triangular bombs issue from a drone’s body; in another the same bomb shape glows white within its frame, perhaps about to be released. Some of the pieces group and overlap multiple drones. Two fall vertically from the sky, wrestling together in an epic death-grip, or three or four move steadily in sequence. Wilding equates the movement of the machine with the flight of a bird, but it always remains sinister and menacing. In one work, where the entire pictorial space is covered in a repeated pattern of multiple aircraft, one can see blood-red spots of paint atop the surface of the paper.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine