GILLIAN WISEBritish b. 1936
GILLIAN WISEBritish b. 1936
Gillian Wise was born in 1936 and was educated at Wimbledon College and Central School in London. She rose to prominence in the 1950s as a member of the constructivist group of artists centred on Victor Pasmore and Kenneth and Mary Martin. Her work of the late 1950s through to the early 1980s is principally relief based constructions utilising materials such as aluminium and Perspex. This is allied to more site specific commissions on a larger, architectural scale. Early in the 1980s she was commissioned by the architects of the Barbican Centre in London to design the large-scale mural construction in the stairwell to the main cinema. From the mid-1980s Wise produced relatively few constructions, instead working more in traditional materials. The core pursuit of applying rationality and aesthetic order to her compositions remains remarkably stable throughout her long career.
A strong early source of support for Wise was Anthony Hill who work was also concerned with rationality, as opposed to Pasmore's more lyrical constructions. In the late 1960s Wise became a key member of the System's Group, a highly progressive group of young artists whose number included Peter Lowe, Jeffrey Steel, Malcolm Hughes and John Ernest. These artists exhibited together a number of times from 1969 through to the dissolution of the group in the mid-1970s, but many of the members of the group remain close to this day and true to their initial core ideals.
Wise taught both at Chelsea College of Art and St Martin's during the early 1970s before moving to America and taking a series of posts including being elected (in 1981) a Fellow of the Centre for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also had appointment as Visiting Artist and Visiting Scholar at Harvard University and the University of California. She relocated to Paris after her spell in America, and still lives and works in the city to this day.
Wise was included in the important exhibition ‘A Rational Aesthetic' at Southampton City Art Gallery and in 2010 her work was included along with that of Victor Pasmore, Anthony Hill, John Ernest, and Mary and Kenneth Martin in Tate Britain's year-long display, Construction England. Alistair Grieve writes authoritatively and at length about Wise's work in his book ‘Constructed Abstract Art in England: A neglected Avant-Garde.' Her work is in many public collections, not least Tate Britain, the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Government Art Collection and the Arts Council Collection.
Wise is one of Britain's most important post-war female artists, and one whose achievements are sadly more often championed in mainland Europe than in her own country.